We find that patients after a failed IVF cycle are subjected to a lot of unnecessary, expensive tests. There are lots of reasons for this over-testing. Patients are desperately seeking answers and they want to know why the cycle failed. They put a lot of pressure on the doctor to provide these answers. The simple truth that we don't know why the embryo failed to implant , because it's not possible for us to track the biological process of implantation after the transfer . How do we figure out what happens to this microscopic living ball of cells once we put it back inside the uterus ? However, the truth is just not good enough for many patients.
This is why doctors are pressurized into ordering a battery of what appear to be very scientific and sophisticated tests , including genetic tests and immune tests , in order to keep the patient happy. Sadly, none of these tests have been clinically validated and most are unproven. However , because patients are so vulnerable and start grasping for straws, they are quite happy when the doctor orders these tests . This is why we see so many patients who have failed an IVF cycle who do very fancy tests, such as NK Cell testing or ERA ( endometrial receptivity assay ) testing, which checks the endometrial genome. All of these have a plausible scientific basis, but are of unproven clinical value.
Part of the problem of course is that doctors love playing with new tests. They love zebras, and are quite happy to show the patient that they are not leaving any stone un-turned in their search for answers. In fact, the newer the test and the more expensive it is, the happier some doctors are to order it ! They do this in order to impress their patients about how thorough and careful and up-to-date and modern they are.
Some patients are very impressed with this battery of tests . They believe that the more the money their doctor makes them spend on the tests, the better the doctor ! While it's true that these tests can be very expensive, a lot of patients don't mind spending this money , because they are led to believe that the results will help the doctor to tailor their next treatment cycle, and improve their chances of success.
This line of thinking is illogical and flawed . If any of these tests were actually helpful, then wouldn't it make sense that these tests should be done for all patients when they start their first IVF cycle , rather than wait for the cycle to fail before ordering these tests?
The reality is that a lot of these tests are of unproven value, but some IVF doctors prey on their patient's emotional vulnerability and desperation for answers . They pander to their patient's emotional demands to keep them happy. After all, it's so much easier for the doctor to just order the test , and then try to " fix an abnormal result " , rather than sit down and explain to the patient why the tests are of limited value , and why there's very little point in ordering them.
After all, the one thing busy IVF specialists have a major shortage of is time. Very few will spend the time and energy to counsel patients that a failed IVF cycle doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with them ; or that the doctor overlooked a potential problem ; or that the doctor has not done a good job. A failed IVF cycle just testifies to the fact that human reproduction is surprisingly inefficient . Just because one cycle fails, doesn't mean we need to do something different in the next cycle. Often, patience and tincture of time are all that a patient needs to achieve success !
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