The TasIVF Story
Four years ago, TasIVF began a process to improve our quality of patient service from the ground up. This began with a search for a brand-new site over which we would have control of all the processes involved, from patient consultations through to their egg collections and of course the laboratory processes. Our current site was found and completely redeveloped (from a storage facility) to the fully self-contained fertility center that we now have. We opened the new facility in September 2018. The new facility’s aim was to improve the patient experience and pregnancy rate by making the journey from egg collection to embryo transfer as stress free as possible for both our patients and equally importantly their eggs, sperm and embryos.
Clean air and warm temperatures are vital for an embryo’s success. TasIVF now boasts a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC) that maintains the laboratory at a constant 240C and theatre at 230C. Air is filtered to remove airborne particles such as viruses, bacteria, pollen and mold. The air pressure in the laboratory is higher than the surrounding areas to ensure that air is always flowing out of the laboratory into surrounding office spaces reducing the chance of contaminants entering. In addition, the laboratory and theatres were built with low VOC (volatile organic compounds) emitting materials which are known to be detrimental to embryo development and pregnancy rates. Most general hospital environments understandably can’t offer these conditions.
The operating theatre sits adjacent to the laboratory so eggs only have to travel a few steps from egg collection to incubator and back to the patient which limits the time exposed to ambient air temperatures. The total distance travelled by the oocytes before they are implanted is approximately ten meters.
These improvements resulted in an immediate and notable change in the embryos we were creating and added to the enthusiasm we all felt for the next phase.
Humidicribs – some processes require patient material to be removed from the incubators. Where possible this work is done in a humidicrib which allows the embryologist to work on eggs and embryos in a protected environment under ideal conditions just as though they were inside an incubator.
EmbyryoScope+ - The EmbryoScope+ is a first-class incubator that enables a stable culture environment and visualisation of the developing embryo using sophisticated computer software. The introduction of the Embryoscope in 2019 has meant that embryos no longer need to be removed from the incubator to be observed. Our timing was fortunate as this newest incubator only became available just as we were ready to purchase.
IVY – IVY is an artificial intelligence computer program which assists the embryologist to choose the embryo most likely to create a pregnancy. The system is constantly observing the embryos even whilst our scientists (and the rest of us) are busy with other duties or sleeping!
One Lab - Under the guidance of Professor David Gardner, Virtus, our parent company, introduced a system to standardize all laboratory procedures. David is a world renown IVF scientist whose many achievements include the original work on blastocyst culture. With the assistance of Petra Wale, David Gardner and Virtus have begun the roll out of One Lab commencing first at TasIVF. Petra was originally a TasIVF scientist who subsequently worked with David in his Denver Colorado clinic, the most successful IVF clinic in the USA at the time.
Continuing education - Learning never stops and improvements are always being sought. Education in techniques for egg collection, embryo handling and embryo transfer are constantly being monitored and refined. For example, we have looked at each doctor’s and each embryologist’s transfer technique, combined them to obtain the best results and then standardized them throughout all combinations.
So, has all this change and effort made a difference? This is an emphatic yes!! TasIVF has seen very significant improvements in both pregnancy rates and embryo development.
The following graph shows the clinical pregnancy rate for patients using their own eggs who had a fresh transfer between 2018 and 2020. In 2020, the second year in the new facility, it shows that the move, equipment and training are paying off with the fresh pregnancy rate nearly doubled for all ages groups.
Fresh Embryo Transfer Pregnancy Rate (sac/ET)
Own Eggs, all embryo stages, excluding PGT embryos
Improvement have also been seen in frozen embryo transfers, most notably in the younger age group (<35) – see next graph.
Obviously, the year in which an embryo was created will affect the pregnancy rate for frozen embryos however our expectation is that we will continue to see an improvement in these results as new embryos are frozen.
Frozen Embryo Transfer Pregnancy Rate (sac/ET)
Own eggs, all embryo stages, excluding PGT
The enthusiasm created by these results is infectious! Every member of the team is not only proud of what we have been able to achieve but strives to maintain their position in the chain that leads to such outcomes.