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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018 Aug 17;8:CD010537. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD010537.pub5.

Assisted reproductive technology: an overview of Cochrane Reviews.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Auckland, FMHS Park Road, Grafton, Auckland, New Zealand, 1003.



As many as one in six couples will encounter problems with fertility, defined as failure to achieve a clinical pregnancy after regular intercourse for 12 months. Increasingly, couples are turning to assisted reproductive technology (ART) for help with conceiving and ultimately giving birth to a healthy live baby of their own. Fertility treatments are complex, and each ART cycle consists of several steps. If one of these steps is incorrectly applied, the stakes are high as conception may not occur. With this in mind, it is important that each step of the ART cycle is supported by good evidence from well-designed studies.


To summarise the evidence from Cochrane systematic reviews on procedures and treatment options available to couples with subfertility undergoing assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures.


Published Cochrane systematic reviews of couples undergoing ART procedures (in vitro fertilisation or intracytoplasmic sperm injection) were eligible for inclusion in the overview. We also identified Cochrane reviews in preparation, for future inclusion.The primary outcome of the overview was live birth or the composite outcome live birth or ongoing pregnancy, as reported by the included reviews. Our secondary outcomes were clinical pregnancy, multiple pregnancy, miscarriage, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. We excluded studies of intrauterine insemination and ovulation induction.We undertook selection of systematic reviews, data extraction, and quality assessment in duplicate. We assessed review quality by using the AMSTAR tool. We organised reviews by their relevance to specific stages in the ART cycle. We summarised their findings in the text and reported data for each outcome in 'Additional tables'.


We included 68 systematic reviews published in the Cochrane Library up to May 2018. All were of high quality. These reviews identified 38 interventions that were effective (n = 23) or promising (n = 15), and they identified 19 interventions that were ineffective (n = 2) or possibly ineffective (n = 17). For 15 interventions, review authors were unable to draw conclusions owing to lack of evidence.We identified an additional 11 protocols and four titles for future inclusion in this overview.


This overview provides the most up-to-date evidence on ART cycles from systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials. Fertility treatments are costly, and the stakes are high. Using the best available evidence to optimise outcomes is best practice. Evidence from this overview could be used to develop clinical practice guidelines and protocols that can be applied in daily clinical practice to improve live birth rates and reduce rates of multiple pregnancy, cycle cancellation, and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

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