Predictive value of oocyte morphology in human IVF: a systematic review of the literature

Rienzi L, Vajta G, Ubaldi FM.

Hum Reprod Update 2011 Jan-Feb; 17(1): 34–45 – Published online 2010 Jul 16. doi:  10.1093/humupd/dmq029



Non-invasive selection of developmentally competent human oocytes may increase the overall efficiency of human assisted reproduction and is regarded as crucial in countries where legal, social or religious factors restrict the production of supernumerary embryos. The purpose of this study was to summarize the predictive value for IVF success of morphological features of the oocyte that can be obtained by light or polarized microscopic investigations.


Studies about oocyte morphology and IVF/ICSI outcomes were identified by using a systematic literature search.


Fifty relevant articles were identified: 33 analysed a single feature, 9 observed multiple features and investigated the effect of these features individually, 8 summarized the effect of individual features. Investigated structures were the following: meiotic spindle (15 papers), zona pellucida (15 papers), vacuoles or refractile bodies (14 papers), polar body shape (12 papers), oocyte shape (10 papers), dark cytoplasm or diffuse granulation (12 papers), perivitelline space (11 papers), central cytoplasmic granulation (8 papers), cumulus–oocyte complex (6 papers) and cytoplasm viscosity and membrane resistance characteristics (2 papers). None of these features were unanimously evaluated to have prognostic value for further developmental competence of oocytes.


No clear tendency in recent publications to a general increase in predictive value of morphological features was found. These contradicting data underline the importance of more intensive and coordinated research to reach a consensus and fully exploit the predictive potential of morphological examination of human oocytes.

Keywords: oocyte quality, IVF/ICSI outcome, embryo development, meiotic spindle, zona pellucida