An international expert audience of more than 50 guests from Switzerland, Germany and Austria had the opportunity to take a look at a variety of innovations in reproductive medicine and prenatal diagnosis – such was the successful outcome of the symposium of the IVF Centers Prof. Zech which was held at the beginning of April in Bregenz.
The symposium on Thursday, April 4th and Friday, April 5th, respectively, started with a tour through the Bregenz-based clinic and laboratory areas together with the founder of the institute, Herbert Zech and his team. This was followed by lectures at the Hotel “Deuring Schlössle” – the highlight of which was a “live” ultrasound scan. To this end, women in different stages of pregnancy had been invited.
The expert lecturers from Salzburg, PD Dr. Dietmar Spitzer (Medical Director of the IVF Centers Prof. Zech – Salzburg), and Univ. Prof. Dr. Horst Steiner (President of the Austrian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine) provided interesting insights into their work.
Dietmar Spitzer, Medical Director of the IVF Centers Salzburg: “This further training for practicing gynecologists has once again highlighted the significance of regularly passing on our latest developments and insights to our colleagues, using theoretical and practical examples. The audience was thrilled with this comprehensive approach.“
The topics ranged from current techniques in IVF treatment and therapy options in cases of infertility, to state-of-the-art monitoring of pregnancies with ultrasound.
The perfect use of cutting-edge methods is the key to successful IVF treatment
Blastocyst selection is at the core of treatment at our IVF Centers Prof. Zech . This includes selecting those embryos to be transferred to the uterine cavity that have the highest potential for development as well as for implantation.
On average, about 10 oocytes can be collected through follicular aspiration during an IVF treatment.
If fertilized oocytes continue to develop into blastocysts (i.e. an embryo presenting a complex structure and consisting of about 200 cells), embryo transfer usually results in a pregnancy.
It is reasonable to keep all fertilized oocytes in culture, allowing the embryos to develop to the blastocyst stage. After having transferred 1 to a maximum of 2 embryos at the blastocyst stage, the aim is to cryopreserve the remaining embryos with a view to possible future pregnancies Vitrification).
Optimum oocytes and sperm ensure optimum embryos
When it comes to treating men, here, too, the therapy goal is to obtain perfect gametes (spermatozoa). In order to precisely assess the quality of sperm, the IMSI-technique (Intra-cytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection) is applied as a standard procedure and has thus replaced the ICSI procedure (Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection; selection at 400-fold magnification). Sperm selection is performed using a high-resolution microscope with 6.000-12.000-fold magnification. This allows for a much more precise investigation of these spermatozoa, particularly as to their morphological form. The best spermatozoa are then isolated and subsequently injected into the oocytes (optimum oocytes + optimum spermatozoa = optimum embryos).
“Oxidative Stress” can have a detrimental effect on sperm quality
Almost every fifth couple has to cope with infertility issues, which can be due to poor sperm quality, hormonal imbalances or pathological changes in internal organs. The main reason for damaged sperm is oxidative stress, which, for example, may be triggered by smoking, infections or alcohol consumption. In detail this means: Spermatozoa serve the purpose of DNA transport. Aberrant DNA packaging during spermatogenesis (sperm maturation) increases the attack surface for aggressive oxygen molecules. This is referred to as oxidative stress which causes 25-60 % of DNA damage to sperm. A supporting antioxidant therapy can counteract this effect. (For more information, see www.fertilovit.com)
Thorough examinations after achieving successful pregnancy
After having achieved pregnancy with IVF treatment, prenatal care tailored to the needs of each couple is of primordial importance. This means that the unborn child should be thoroughly examined using prenatal diagnosis.
Prenatal diagnosis is intended to determine whether the developing fetus is affected with a congenital malformation or chromosomal abnormality. In detail, this specialized ultrasound scan is carried out via a first trimester screening or a combined test and organ screening during the second trimester of pregnancy, respectively.
The first trimester screening is an examination done between weeks 11 and 14 of pregnancy in order to detect possible chromosomal conditions at an early stage (e.g. Down syndrome). When gauging the personal risk, the age of the expectant mother and the results of the blood tests and ultrasound scans are taken into account, too.
Horst Steiner, President of the Austrian Society of Ultrasound in Medicine: “In the course of an extensive first trimester screening, questions as to the exclusion of congenital malformations and chromosomal anomalies are dealt with. The particular care for women who are pregnant with twins is also usually in the responsibility of a physician specialized in prenatal diagnosis. Furthermore, it is possible to assess the risk of preeclampsia (hypertensive disorders during pregnancy) to allow for a prophylactic treatment with medicines, where appropriate.”
Fertility treatment focuses on research and development
The private clinic group IVF Centers Prof. Zech as one of the leading IVF centers in Europe considers research and development to be fundamental factors, since know-how, highly-trained staff, appropriate equipment and methods applied will remain decisive for a successful treatment.