Background: Although observational studies suggest that IVF is more effective than no treatment for women with Fallopian tube patency, this has not been tested rigorously in a randomized controlled trial (RCT).
Methods: Eligible consenting couples planning their first treatment cycle in five Canadian fertility clinics received either IVF, within 90 days of randomization, or a period of 90 days with no treatment. Random allocation was stratified by female age and sperm quality, and administered using numbered, opaque, sealed envelopes. Follow-up assessed live birth and associated morbidity.
Results: Sixty-eight couples were randomized to a first cycle of IVF and 71 couples had 3 months without treatment. The live birth rates were 20/68 (29%) and 1/71 (1%), respectively. The single delivery in the untreated group was of twins, as were six of the 20 IVF deliveries (30%). An average of 2.0 embryos were transferred and no triplet pregnancies resulted. The relative likelihood of delivery after allocation to IVF was 20.9-fold higher than after allocation to no treatment [95% confidence interval (CI) 2.8-155]. The presence of abnormal sperm did not reduce this likelihood. Treating four women (95% CI 3-6) with one cycle of IVF is required to achieve a single additional birth.
Conclusions: This study provides a valid and up-to-date comparison for policy makers and patients as they make choices around IVF, accurately measuring and confirming a major benefit from treatment.