STUDY QUESTION: Is pre-ovulatory endometrial thickness (EMT) in women with unexplained subfertility undergoing IUI with ovarian stimulation (OS) associated with pregnancy chances?
SUMMARY ANSWER: We found no evidence for an association between EMT and pregnancy chances.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: It has been suggested that OS with clomiphene citrate (CC) results in a lower EMT than with gonadotrophins or aromatase inhibitors, but the clinical consequences in terms of pregnancy are unclear.
STUDY DESIGN, SIZE, DURATION: We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies comparing CC, gonadotrophins or aromatase inhibitors in an IUI program reporting on EMT and pregnancy rates in women with unexplained subfertility.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS, SETTING, METHODS: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and the non-MEDLINE subset of PubMed from inception to 28th June 2016 and cross-checked references of relevant articles. Outcome measures were clinical pregnancy rate and mean pre-ovulatory EMT. We calculated mean differences (MD) with 95% CIs with a fixed effect model, and in case of heterogeneity with an I2 > 50% a random effect model. We performed a meta-regression analysis to determine if stimulating drugs interacted with the estimated effect of EMT.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Our search retrieved 1563 articles of which 23 were included, totaling 3846 women. There were 17 RCTs and 6 cohort studies. The average study quality was low and there was considerable to substantial statistical heterogeneity. Seven studies provided data on EMT in relation to pregnancy. There was no evidence of a difference in EMT between women who conceived and women that did not conceive (1525 women, MDrandom: 0.51 mm, 95% CI: -0.05 to 1.07). Women treated with CC had a significantly thinner EMT than women treated with gonadotrophins (two studies, MD: -0.33, 95% CI: -0.64 to -0.01). There was no evidence of a difference in EMT when comparing CC with letrozole (five studies, MDrandom: -0.84, 95% CI: -1.97 to 0.28). The combination of CC plus gonadotrophins resulted in a slightly thinner endometrium than letrozole (nine studies, MDrandom: -0.79, 95% CI: -1.37 to -0.20). Letrozole resulted in a thinner EMT than gonadotrophins (two studies, MDrandom: -1.31, 95% CI: -2.08 to -0.53).
LIMITATIONS, REASONS FOR CAUTION: The overall quality of the included studies was low to moderate. We found considerable to substantial heterogeneity in the comparisons, hampering firm conclusions.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: We found no evidence for an association between EMT and pregnancy rates during IUI -OS. As a consequence, canceling IUI cycles because of a thin endometrial lining may negatively affect clinical care. Although we found some evidence for very small differences in EMT when comparing various drugs, we cannot make inferences on their effect on pregnancy chances since these differences may be coincidental.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTEREST(S): None.
REGISTRATION NUMBER: N/A.