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Test-tube baby clinics' success soars.

Midland test-tube baby clinics have taken massive strides in improving the success of treatments, according to new figures.

At the best clinics, the chances of having a successful conception are now higher than 20 per cent, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

All four main clinics in the West Midlands are performing much better than the national average, the figures show.

Most parents now emerge from treatment with a single child, rather than the twins or triplets which tended to follow treatment in the early days.

Much of the success has been achieved because of the introduction of a treatment called ICSI in which a single sperm is injected into an egg using a hair-thin needle.

In the largest Midland centre, Midland Fertility Services, of Aldridge, Walsall, one third of couples use this method.

Out of 776 women treated by various test-tube methods, 21.2 per cent became pregnant at the centre.

But the region's best success rate, 23.9 per cent at the Birmingham Women's Hospital, was achieved even though just a handful of patients had ICSI - 15 out of a total of 481.

The BMI Priory Hospital, Edgbaston, had a 22.7 per cent success rate and the Coventry Walsgrave Hospital had a 19.4 per cent rate.

The national average was 17.8 per cent. Last year, success rates for the four clinics ranged from 13.3 per cent to 18.2 per cent.

Mr Khaldoun Sharif, a consultant gynaecologist at Birmingham Women's Hospital, said its success had been achieved by the careful screening of patients. He said couples who needed ICSI had generally been referred to other centres until the hospital develo ped expertise in the treatment.

Mr Sharif said: "We are expecting success rates to continue to improve year by year."

He said the centre had recently introduced a technique - also in use at Aldridge - known as blastocyte culture.

The technique involves nurturing embryos outside the womb for two days, meaning doctors have a better idea whether they are viable by the time they implant them in the mother.

Mr Bert Stewart, scientific director of Midland Fertility Services, said: "Patients should be careful about making decisions as to where to go for treatment based solely on this guide as the live birth rates for each centre are not comparable.

"For example, we know that for a particular group of highly selected health authority patients we achieved a 47.5 per cent baby take-home rate per treatment cycle started, making us three times better than the national figure."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 17, 1998
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