When I and colleagues first began IVF (in vitro fertilisation) treatment, in my case over 20 years ago, the thought that we might one day have a piece of technology that could select - without human help - which embryos were most likely to lead to a successful pregnancy was beyond imagination.
But now at Liverpool Women's we have become the first fertility centre in Europe to introduce Eeva (Early Embryo Viability Assessment Test) which does precisely that. The fact that our centre, now one of the largest in Europe, was selected to be the first to introduce Eeva indicates the high regard in which our unit is held internationally. My scientific colleague and Clinical Director, Dr Steve Troup, and I will be presenting our data at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine in San Diego In October.
Eeva is good news for us, our patients and other health professionals caring for those with infertility. At the Hewitt Fertility Centre we are committed to doing everything we can, including adopting breakthrough technologies, to improve embryo selection in order to increase a patient’s success of pregnancy while reducing the risks associated with multiple births. Eeva is an amazing new aid in our quest to overcome the pain of infertility.
Why is the Eeva test such a breakthrough?
Eeva is designed to improve IVF outcomes by providing us with objective information that will enable us to predict embryo viability with a new level of accuracy. The Eeva Test uses intelligent computer vision software to measure key scientifically and clinically validated cell-division parameters from video images. It predicts with high accuracy at the cleavage stage, which embryos are likely to grow to the blast cyst stage, a critical milestone in embryo development.
How does Eeva differ from the Embryoscope service introduced last year at Liverpool Women’s which again was a significant breakthrough?
Until quite recently, embryos were taken out of the incubator once a day and examined under a microscope by embryologists. They were looking for certain marks which would tell them whether an embryo looked like it was in a good state. This meant physically removing the embryos from the incubator. It also meant that embryologists were seeing them only once a day.
With the Embryoscope incubator came technology that filmed the embryos every 20 minutes within the incubator 24/7. Embryologists could then study the film which gave a detailed picture of each embryo, showing changes that were taking place which might well have been missed when they were examined only once a day.
Why is Eeva is such a breakthrough?
Eeva takes that technology even further. While the Embryoscope helps humans to make decisions about the embryos, Eeva scientifically predicts with 85 per cent specificity which embryo is likely to thrive.
What does that mean for patients?
It means that we will be able to put the strongest embryos back into patients' wombs to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. This in turn should reduce the financial burden for infertile couples who can often go through repeat cycles of IVF before having a viable pregnancy. The cost is around £4,000 to £8,000 per cycle at the moment although at Liverpool Women’s eligible patients are offered their first two treatments on the NHS. We hope it will also reduce the disappointment and distress that repeated IVF treatments can bring.
Will Eeva increase the chances of a successful IVF treatment at the Hewitt Centre and what is the success rate now?
We are very optimistic that Eeva will raise our already higher than average levels of success with IVF treatments which are currently nearly 50 percent compared with only one in three in some centres.
Will there be an extra cost for patients wanting Eeva?
This is cost neutral; free for all as the cost is included in your cycle of IVF treatment.
Is it available to all NHS patients now?
Before it can be offered to NHS patients en masse, the equipment will have to go through a period of evaluation and doctors will then have to make a case to persuade NHS commissioners to fund it as it may well save money in the long run.