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What Is Extended Embryo Culture?

Extended embryo culture is a method used when the embryo remains in a culture medium from the third day after fertilization onwards. The strength in extended embryo culture method allows Denver Fertility -Albrecht Women’s Care to evaluate the embryo’s development and morphology.

How the extended embryo culture process works?

After eggs are retrieved, they are transferred to the embryology laboratory where they are kept in conditions that support their needs and growth. If you are freezing eggs, the mature eggs will be frozen within 6 hours after the egg retrieval. If you are fertilizing eggs the mature eggs will be exposed to sperm within 3-12 hours. Not all mature eggs exposed to sperm will fertilize.  The fertilized eggs are called embryos. The embryos are placed in small dishes or tubes containing "culture medium," which is special fluid developed to support development of the embryos made to resemble conditions found in the fallopian tube or uterus.  The dishes containing the embryos are then placed into incubators, which control the temperature and atmospheric gasses the embryos experience.

A few hours after eggs are retrieved, sperm are placed in the culture medium with the eggs, or individual sperm are injected into each mature egg in a technique called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) (hyperlink).  The eggs are then returned to the incubator, where they remain to develop.  Periodically over the next few days, the dishes are inspected so the development of the embryos can be assessed.

The following day after the eggs have been inseminated or injected with a single sperm (ICSI), they are examined for signs that the process of fertilization is underway.  At this stage, normal development is evident by the single cell having 2 nuclei; this stage is called a zygote or 2 pn stage.  Two days after insemination or ICSI, normal embryos have divided into about 4 cells.  Three days after insemination or ICSI, normally developing embryos contain about 8 cells.  Five days after insemination or ICSI, normally developing embryos have developed to the blastocyst stage, which is typified by an embryo that now has 80 or more cells, an inner fluid-filled cavity, and a small cluster of cells called the inner cell mass.

It is important to note that since many eggs and embryos are abnormal, it is expected that not all eggs will fertilize and not all embryos will divide at a normal rate.  The chance that a developing embryo will produce a pregnancy is related to whether its development is normal, but this correlation is not perfect.   This means that not all embryos developing at the normal rate are in fact also genetically normal, and not all poorly developing embryos are genetically abnormal.  Nonetheless, their visual appearance is the most common and useful guide in the selection of the best embryo(s) for transfer.

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