Time-lapse involves continued observation of embryo development by means of a videocamera that can be placed inside a conventional incubator or used as its own incubator to make a film of the evolution of the embryos. A software programme reconstructs the images and allows us to follow the development of the embryos.
Its appearance five years ago, launched by a great advertising campaign, promised to improve embryo selection. Conventional embryo morphology criteria were called into question and it was introduced as the new “leading” tool.
This system spread fast without conclusive evidence about birth rate improvement, or about its safety or financial cost (*Armstrong y cols., 2015).
For this reason, the question we ask ourselves today is: Has it been conclusively proved that time-lapse is useful?
And the answer is: no.
Most of the published studies are poorly designed and do not clearly prove the superiority of this technology. In most of these research studies what is actually modified is the culture conditions. It is these that could improve the results, and not the time-lapse system itself. Furthermore, a recent prospective randomised study (**Park y cols., 2015) shows that there are no benefits in cultivating embryos in this type of time-lapse incubators in comparison with conventional incubators.
Another aspect to be considered is the high financial cost entailed by the incorporation of time-lapse technology in In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) laboratories, which is ultimately borne by the patient, who has to pay an increase in her IVF treatment in the belief that it will increase her chances of success.
Reality is quite different: this is an experimental tool whose efficacy is more than doubtful.
What initially seemed a “must-have” technology for any assisted reproduction centre has turned out to be, once again (just as it happened with IMSI), a passing trend inspired by economistic criteria and dubious medical ethics.
*Armstrong S, Vail A, Mastenbroek S, Jordan V, Farquhar C. Time-lapse in the IVF-lab: how should we assess potential benefit?Hum Reprod 2015;30:3-8.
**Park H, Bergh C, Selleskog U, Thurin-Kjellberg A, Lundin K. No benefit of culturing embryos in a closed system compared with a conventional incubator in terms of number of good quality embryos: results from an RCT. Hum Reprod 2015;30:268-275.
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