British researchers found that gently scratching the lining of the womb a month before IVF treatment improved the chances of pregnancy. A review of research on the technique found that twice as many women became pregnant after the procedure than without, boosting pregnancy rates to almost one in two.
Doctors at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, central London, are carrying out a larger trial to establish the overall efficacy of the technique with the hope of offering it routinely within three to five years.
It is thought that scratching the womb lining stimulates growth factors and repair mechanisms that allow the fertilised egg to embed more easily. It takes only 15 minutes in clinic, can be carried out by trained nurses and uses simple equipment already in use. The procedure may add less than £100 to the average £4,500 cost of a cycle of IVF treatment.
Dr Tarek El-Toukhy, who led the review study, said: “Endometrial scratching uses simple, inexpensive equipment that most hospitals already have and which clinicians are already trained to use, so complications are rare.
“It’s exciting that the chance of pregnancy could be doubled. The next step is to see if this applies to birth rates. About a third of IVF treatments result in a baby, so improving these odds would make a big difference to people trying to have children through IVF.”
The findings from the review of eight studies involving 911 patients are published in Reproductive Biomedicine online. In the review, 128 out of 499 women who did not have the womb procedure became pregnant — almost 26 per cent. Of the 412 women who had the procedure, 198 fell pregnant, or 48 per cent.
There were no serious side effects reported and early signs are that the doubling in rates will be translated into birth rates. The women in the study had all suffered repeated unexplained implantation failure, meaning other aspects of their fertility seemed normal but the egg did not implant properly in the womb.
Maha Ragunath, the clinical director of Care Nottingham, the biggest private provider of fertility treatment in England, said the technique should be offered widely to all IVF patients in the near future. She has begun carrying out the procedure for patients who have suffered repeated failed cycles of IVF.
“This is really priming the womb to receive the embryo,” she said. “It is a bit like having a smear test for cervical cancer. It is very quick and simple. “I think any doctor reading the review would want to at least talk to their patients about this procedure. “There is obviously something to be gained from it, no long-term damage and it is so inexpensive, so why not?”
Article: 1st October 2012 www.telegraph.co.uk