STUDY QUESTION: What is the effect of uterine bathing with sonography gel prior to IVF/ICSI-treatment on live birth rates after fresh embryo transfer in patients with endometriosis?
SUMMARY ANSWER: After formal interim analysis and premature ending of the trial, no significant difference between uterine bathing using a pharmacologically neutral sonography gel compared to a sham procedure on live birth rate after fresh embryo transfer in endometriosis patients (26.7% vs. 15.4%, relative risk (RR) 1.73, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.81-3.72; P-value 0.147) could be found, although the trial was underpowered to draw definite conclusions.
WHAT IS KNOWN ALREADY: Impaired implantation receptivity contributes to reduced clinical pregnancy rates after IVF/ICSI-treatment in endometriosis patients. Previous studies have suggested a favourable effect of tubal flushing with Lipiodol® on natural conceptions. This benefit might also be explained by enhancing implantation through endometrial immunomodulation. Although recent studies showed no beneficial effect of endometrial scratching, the effect of mechanical stress by intrauterine infusion on the endometrium in endometriosis patients undergoing IVF/ICSI-treatment has not been investigated yet.
STUDY DESIGN SIZE DURATION: We performed a multicentre, patient-blinded, randomised controlled trial in which women were randomly allocated to either a Gel Infusion Sonography (GIS, intervention group) or a sham procedure (control group) prior to IVF/ICSI-treatment. Since recruitment was slow and completion of the study was considered unfeasible, the study was halted after inclusion of 112 of the planned 184 women.
PARTICIPANTS/MATERIALS SETTING METHODS: We included infertile women with surgically confirmed endometriosis ASRM stage I-IV undergoing IVF/ICSI-treatment. After informed consent, women were randomised to GIS with intrauterine instillation of ExEm-gel® or sonography with gel into the vagina (sham). This was performed in the cycle preceding the embryo transfer, on the day GnRH analogue treatment was started. The primary endpoint was live birth rate after fresh embryo transfer. Analysis was performed by both intention-to-treat and per-protocol.
MAIN RESULTS AND THE ROLE OF CHANCE: Between July 2014 to September 2018, we randomly allocated 112 women to GIS (n = 60) or sham procedure (n = 52). The live birth rate after fresh embryo transfer was 16/60 (26.7%) after GIS versus 8/52 (15.4%) after the sham (RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.81-3.72; P-value 0.147). Ongoing pregnancy rate was 16/60 (26.7%) after GIS versus 9/52 (17.3%) in the controls (RR 1.54, 95% CI 0.74-3.18). Miscarriage occurred in 1/60 (1.7%) after GIS versus 5/52 (9.6%) in the controls (RR 0.17, 95% CI 0.02-1.44) women. Uterine bathing resulted in a higher pain score compared with a sham procedure (visual analogue scale score 2.7 [1.3-3.5] vs. 1.0 [0.0-2.0], P < 0.001). There were two adverse events after GIS compared with none after sham procedures.
LIMITATIONS REASONS FOR CAUTION: The study was terminated prematurely due to slow recruitment and trial fatigue. Therefore, the trial is underpowered to draw definite conclusions regarding the effect of uterine bathing with sonography gel on live birth rate after fresh embryo transfer in endometriosis patients undergoing IVF/ICSI-treatment.
WIDER IMPLICATIONS OF THE FINDINGS: We could not demonstrate a favourable effect of uterine bathing procedures with sonography gel prior to IVF/ICSI-treatment in patients with endometriosis.
STUDY FUNDING/COMPETING INTERESTS: Investigator initiated study. IQ Medical Ventures provided the ExEm FOAM® kits free of charge, they were not involved in the study design, data management, statistical analyses and/or manuscript preparation, etc. C.B.L. reports receiving grants from Ferring, Merck and Guerbet, outside the submitted work. C.B.L. is Editor-in-Chief of Human Reproduction. V.M. reports grants and other from Guerbet, outside the submitted work. B.W.M. reports grants from NHMRC (GNT1176437), personal fees from ObsEva, Merck and Merck KGaA, Guerbet and iGenomix, outside the submitted work. N.P.J. reports research funding from Abb-Vie and Myovant Sciences and consultancy for Vifor Pharma, Guerbet, Myovant Sciences and Roche Diagnostics, outside the submitted work. K.D. reports personal fees from Guerbet, outside the submitted work. The other authors do not report any conflicts of interest. No financial support was provided.
TRIAL REGISTRATION NUMBER: NL4025 (NTR4198).
TRIAL REGISTRATION DATE: 7 October 2013.
DATE OF FIRST PATIENT’S ENROLMENT: 22 July 2014.