A detailed assessment of the uterus forms a pivotal part of the ART treatment process. The emergence of three-dimensional ultrasound (3D US) has provided clinicians with a highly powerful tool in this respect. Assessments with 3D US range from the reconstruction of anatomical planes elusive to conventional US, to the objective measurement of anatomical volumes and vascularization parameters. However, despite the ever increasing number of publications emerging in the literature, the question of which aspects of 3D US are of most clinical value remains a topic of debate.
The objective of this review is to dissect which aspects of the 3D US assessment of the uterus are supported by a strong level of evidence to date, and should therefore be incorporated into current routine clinical practice.
We conducted a systematic search of the PubMed database up to May 2016, using a combination of text words and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) pertaining to the 3D US assessment of the uterus. All articles published in the English language were screened to ascertain relevance to women of reproductive age; further citations were retrieved through manual reference list searching.
A multitude of predominantly observational studies were identified, which concerned a vast variety of 3D US uterine assessments. All articles unequivocally praised the non-invasive, cost-effective, highly acceptable and objective nature of 3D US. Studies regarding the value of assessing the endometrial volume and vascularization prior to embryo transfer appeared conflicting and inconsistent. Studies regarding the imaging of uterine pathology and identification of intratubal and intrauterine devices consistently reported high rates of diagnostic accuracy. A recent RCT did not show an improvement in clinical outcomes when comparing 3D versus 2D US during embryo transfer. However, preliminary studies suggested that 3D US is superior in determining the site of implantation, particularly in ambiguous cases such as interstitial and angular pregnancies. Finally, pilot studies have suggested that the further integration of 3D and possibly 4D US with surgical interventions of the uterus may be a promising prospect.
3D US may prove to be an invaluable tool in the assessment of the uterus within the context of ART. Currently, the aim should be to highlight the aspects of 3D US that are most evidence-based and valuable for patients, and to incorporate these into routine clinical practice.