Purpose: Our aim was to investigate follicular size (large, ≥17 mm and small, <17 mm) at the time of OPU and homogeneity of follicular development (homogenous development: follicles being present in a homogenous spread of all sizes; heterogeneous: a predominance of small and large follicles) by analysing the morphokinetics of embryo development.
Methods: In this prospective cohort study, 2526 COCs belonging to 187 patients were cultured to day 5. Embryos were evaluated morphokinetically. Four subgroups were defined: large follicles from heterogeneous cycles (LHet) and homogenous cycles (LHom) and small follicles from heterogeneous cycles (SHet) and homogenous cycles (SHom).
Results: Rates of fertilization, blastocyst formation and top and good quality blastocysts were found to be significantly higher in embryos from the LHom group (p < 0.001; p < 0.001; p < 0.001). Small follicles from both homogenous and heterogeneous cycles had significantly lower blastocyst formation and top and good quality blastocyst rates (p < 0.001; p < 0.001). Embryos from SHet had significantly more direct cleavages (p = 0.011). Time to reach blastocyst was shorter in SHom than LHet and LHom (p = 0.002; p = 0.027, respectively). However, once the blastocyst stage was achieved, implantation rates were not significantly different between subgroups, the highest rate being observed in the LHom group. Multivariable analysis revealed that homogeneity of follicular development and follicular size had a significant effect on blastocyst development and quality (p = 0.049; p < 0.001, respectively).
Conclusion: Follicular dynamics, illustrated by follicular size and homogeneity of follicular development, influence early human embryo development. Patterns of follicular growth have an impact on embryo quality and viability which is reflected in morphokinetic variables.
Keywords: Blastocyst; Follicle size; Follicular development; Homogeneity; Morphokinetics.