ART Cycles Found Safe and Sound

Assisted reproductive technology procedures had low complication rates, but some experienced ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Women struggling to become pregnant have a lot of factors to consider, but now they may have one less thing to worry about: the safety of procedures that help them get pregnant.

A new study found that assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures had a low rate of complications.

Women may use a number of methods to become pregnant, such as medications and medical procedures — some of which are becoming more and more common.

"Use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) continues to increase in the United States and globally," explained the authors of a new study, led by Jennifer F. Kawwass, MD, of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ART procedures involve the removal of a woman's eggs from the ovaries. The eggs are then combined with sperm in a lab and either returned to the same woman's body or donated to another woman. This process is often called an "ART cycle."

Dr. Kawwass and team looked at 2000 to 2011 data from CDC's National ART Surveillance System to analyze the safety of these increasingly common procedures. These researchers looked for complications like hospitalization, death, infection or ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) — a condition in which the ovaries become overstimulated and swell.

In most cases, OHSS leads to symptoms like mild pain and bloating. In more severe cases, it can cause rapid weight gain and trouble breathing. According to the US National Library of Medicine, OHSS can lead to serious complications like blood clots and kidney failure in rare cases.

A total of 1,135,206 ART cycles in which the eggs were returned to the same woman's body (called an "autologous" procedure) were analyzed in this study. Of these cases, the most common complications were OHSS and hospitalizations. The highest rate of OHSS seen was 153.5 cases per 10,000 cycles in 2006 and the highest rate of hospitalizations was 34.8 cases per 10,000 cycles in 2000.

The most common complications among 112,254 ART cycles involving donors were also OHSS and hospitalizations. However, these rates were lower than those seen in autologous procedures — a peak of 31 cases of OHSS per 10,000 cycles in 2006 and 2007 and a peak of 10.5 hospitalizations per 10,000 cycles in 2001.

The risk for complications seen in the study were low, wrote Dr. Kawwass and team. These researchers concluded that they didn't see any concerning trends or patterns.

Dr. Kawwass and colleagues noted that further research and awareness of complications like OHSS is needed, and that these complications may be underreported.

This study was published Jan. 6 in JAMA.

The authors disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
January 5, 2015
Last Updated:
January 7, 2015