How AI aids the prediction of embryo viability

Scientists recently have combined computer vision image processing methods and deep learning techniques to create the non-invasive Life Whisperer AI model for robust prediction of embryo viability, as measured by clinical pregnancy outcome, using single static images of Day 5 blastocysts obtained from standard optical light microscope systems.

The Fertility Center of Crete has combined the 30 years of experience of Dr. Matthaios Fraidakis and artificial intelligence to help patients in the process of IVF even more and to set the success rates of this process to even higher standards.

What is known already

Embryo selection following IVF is a critical factor in determining the success of ensuing pregnancy. Traditional morphokinetic grading by trained embryologists can be subjective and variable, and other complementary techniques, such as time-lapse imaging, require costly equipment and have not reliably demonstrated predictive ability for the endpoint of clinical pregnancy. AI methods are being investigated as a promising means for improving embryo selection and predicting implantation and pregnancy outcomes.

Study design, size, duration

These studies involved analysis of retrospectively collected data including standard optical light microscope images and clinical outcomes of 8886 embryos from 11 different IVF clinics, across three different countries, between 2011 and 2018.

Participants/materials, setting, methods

The AI-based model was trained using static two-dimensional optical light microscope images with known clinical pregnancy outcome as measured by fetal heartbeat to provide a confidence score for prediction of pregnancy. Predictive accuracy was determined by evaluating sensitivity, specificity and overall weighted accuracy, and was visualized using histograms of the distributions of predictions. Comparison to embryologists’ predictive accuracy was performed using a binary classification approach and a 5-band ranking comparison.

Main results and the role of chance

The Life Whisperer AI model showed a sensitivity of 70.1% for viable embryos while maintaining a specificity of 60.5% for non-viable embryos across three independent blind test sets from different clinics. The weighted overall accuracy in each blind test set was >63%, with a combined accuracy of 64.3% across both viable and non-viable embryos, demonstrating model robustness and generalizability beyond the result expected from chance. Distributions of predictions showed clear separation of correctly and incorrectly classified embryos. Binary comparison of viable/non-viable embryo classification demonstrated an improvement of 24.7% over embryologists’ accuracy (P = 0.047, n = 2, Student’s t test), and 5-band ranking comparison demonstrated an improvement of 42.0% over embryologists (P = 0.028, n = 2, Student’s t test).

Limitations, reasons for caution

The AI model developed here is limited to analysis of Day 5 embryos; therefore, further evaluation or modification of the model is needed to incorporate information from different time points. The endpoint described is clinical pregnancy as measured by fetal heartbeat, and this does not indicate the probability of live birth. The current investigation was performed with retrospectively collected data, and hence it will be of importance to collect data prospectively to assess real-world use of the AI model.

Wider implications of the findings

These studies demonstrated an improved predictive ability for evaluation of embryo viability when compared with embryologists’ traditional morphokinetic grading methods. The superior accuracy of the Life Whisperer AI model could lead to improved pregnancy success rates in IVF when used in a clinical setting. It could also potentially assist in standardization of embryo selection methods across multiple clinical environments, while eliminating the need for complex time-lapse imaging equipment. Finally, the cloud-based software application used to apply the Life Whisperer AI model in clinical practice makes it broadly applicable and globally scalable to IVF clinics worldwide.


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