Is cryopreservation of embryos a legitimate surrogate marker of embryo quality in studies of assisted reproductive technology conducted using national databases?

We report on how having embryos frozen is associated with good quality embryos but not having embryos frozen is not a marker of poor embryo quality.

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Judy E. Stern, Ph.D., Ellice S. Lieberman, M.D., Dr.P.H., Maurizio Macaluso, M.D., Dr.P.H., Catherine Racowsky, Ph.D.

Volume 97, Issue 4, Pages 890-893



To investigate whether cryopreservation of supernumerary embryos is a good surrogate for embryo quality.


Retrospective study of 6,859 assisted reproductive technology (ART) cycles from women aged


National Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology Clinic Outcome Reporting System data from 2006–2008.


Women undergoing ART.



Main Outcome Measure(s):

Embryo quality (good, fair, or poor), cell number, and live births were compared for cycles with and without cryopreservation, using χ2 to evaluate statistical significance. The association of freezing with embryo quality was examined using multiple logistic regression after adjusting for confounders (patient age, oocyte yield, intracytoplasmic sperm injection [ICSI], assisted hatching, male factor infertility).


Cycles with cryopreservation were more likely to have two embryos of good quality transferred (81.3% vs. 48.5%) and had more 8-cell embryos transferred (76.0% vs. 50.1%). Relative to cycles with two good embryos (good-good), the adjusted odds ratios (OR) for cryopreservation were: good-fair (OR = 0.301, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.257–0.354), fair-fair (OR = 0.308, 95% CI = 0.258–0.367), and any poor (OR = 0.058, 95% CI = 0.040–0.083). The live birth rate was 52.4% for cycles with freezing and 40.6% for cycles without.


Embryo quality and cell number were both associated with embryo cryopreservation. However, although cryopreservation was a strong marker for good quality, not having cryopreservation did not reliably indicate poor quality, as almost half of those cycles had two good quality embryos.

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Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.