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Intravaginal Culture System

We are excited to be the only practice in Minnesota to begin offering INVOcell. This device is the first and only FDA-cleared intravaginal culture (IVC) system that uses the woman’s body as her own incubator for embryo fertilization.

RMIA’s Newest Cost-Sensitive Treatment Option, Which Uses Your Own Body As An Incubator.

INVOCell is a unique system that uses a clear 1.5 inch chamber to hold eggs and sperm, allowing them to, hopefully, combine into embryos that are then able to be transferred into a patient’s uterus. What makes the system unique is that instead of the eggs and sperm incubating in an IVF lab for several days, the patient becomes her own incubator, as the chamber is held in the vagina for five days before removal.

While this may sound strange at first, with a little explanation it makes sense: under conditions where patients naturally conceive, women don’t remain perfectly still for several days, waiting for a fertilized egg to travel from the fallopian tube (where fertilization occurs) to the uterus. There are periods of activity and rest, and so normal conditions for an early embryo in the body are different from those of embryos in an incubator. INVOCell allows patients to have these normal activities and it is possible that these conditions are favorable to embryo development.

INVOCell has some similarities to IVF in that eggs must first be retrieved from the ovaries in order to be placed in the chamber. To get multiple eggs to develop at the same time, INVOCell patients take the same medications used for IVF but at a lower dose. The result is that fewer eggs are obtained from an INVOCell cycle than for traditional IVF, but the medication cost savings can be significant. While a typical number of eggs obtained in an IVF cycle for a woman aged 35 or less is 10-15, the number of eggs obtained in an INVOCell cycle is often 3-8. Following retrieval, the sperm and eggs are immediately combined in the culture chamber and the device is carefully placed in the vagina.

Five days later, the patient returns to the clinic and the chamber is removed, opened and examined in the embryology lab. However, instead of sperm and eggs in the chamber, the embryology team is now hoping to find healthy embryos. Once embryo(s) are identified, one or two can be placed into the uterus. If there are any extra embryos available, they can be frozen for potential future use.

Who is right for INVOCell?

The best candidates for INVOCell are the following:

  • Patients who are not seeking more than one pregnancy from a cycle of fertility treatment. Since fewer embryos are typically available in an INVOCell cycle than IVF, many patients will not have extra embryos available to freeze for future use.
  • Patients who are using donor sperm. The success of an INVOCell cycle using donor sperm will be much higher than IUI with donor sperm. Although the overall cost of INVOCell is higher than IUI, the savings from not having to purchase multiple vials of donor sperm may offset the price difference.
  • Women who are younger than 35 years and have normal ovarian reserve.
  • Patients who do not desire genetic testing of embryos, as this cannot easily be done with INVOCell embryos
  • Those individuals or couples looking for a more affordable alternative to IVF.

Success rates for INVOCell fall in between IUI which is 10% per cycle and IVF which is up to 70%, depending on patient age. Reported delivery rates are approximately 25-30%, although we have seen slightly higher in practice. In a clinical trial, about 1 in 4 embryo transfers resulted in a birth. This innovative option is a cost-sensitive alternative with fewer monitoring visits. Speak with one of our fertility specialists to determine if this is an option for you.

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