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Blastocyst embryo grading pictures and photos from IVF, In Vitro Fertilization Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

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Definition of a blastocyst:

5 day human blastocyst inner cell mass, trophectoderm, cavity
Picture of a high quality expanded human blastocyst embryo 5 days after fertilization
The clump of cells in the 10 to 12 o'clock area is the inner cell mass (ICM) which become the fetus
The trophectoderm cells (TE) that will form the placenta surround the fluid cavity
The fluid-filled blastocoel cavity is in the center

Blastocyst Development and Blastocyst Quality Grading (or scoring)

  • There are 3 distinct parts to a blastocyst - the two cell types and the fluid cavity (see picture above)
  • As development of blastocysts progresses, cells in the 2 components divide and the fluid cavity enlarges
  • With continued blastocyst development the embryo expands, the shell thins, and it hatches from its shell
  • Blastocyst implantation into the lining of the uterus can then begin

Our IVF clinic and many others that do blastocyst culture and transfer use a blastocyst scoring system originally developed and published by Dr. David Gardner in the late 1990's. Dr. Gardner is well known for being first to develop a commercially available embryo culture media system that supported high rates of viable blastocyst development. There are other grading systems for blastocysts , but this one is most widely used.

The Gardner blastocyst grading system assigns 3 separate quality scores to each blastocyst embryo:

  1. Blastocyst development stage - expansion and hatching status
  2. Inner cell mass (ICM) score, or quality
  3. Trophectoderm (TE) score, or quality
Expansion
grade
Blastocyst development and stage status
1

Blastocoel cavity less than half the volume of the embryo

2

Blastocoel cavity more than half the volume of the embryo

3

Full blastocyst, cavity completely filling the embryo

4

Expanded blastocyst, cavity larger than the embryo, with thinning of the shell

5

Hatching out of the shell

6

Hatched out of the shell


ICM grade

Inner cell mass quality

A

Many cells, tightly packed

B

Several cells, loosely grouped

C

Very few cells


TE grade

Trophectoderm quality

A

Many cells, forming a cohesive layer

B

Few cells, forming a loose epithelium

C

Very few large cells

Blastocysts are given a quality grade for each of the 3 components and the score is expressed with the expansion grade listed first, the inner cell mass grade listed second and the trophectoderm grade third.

For example, a blastocyst quality grade of 4AB means that the blastocyst is expanded (grade 4), has many tightly packed cells in the inner cell mass (grade A), and has a trophectoderm with few cells forming a loose epithelium (grade B). See the examples of blastocyst grading pictures below.

There are other blastocyst grading systems, including the grading that we use in our IVF program (see below). Some use more letter grades than the Gardner system. For example, some clinics give component cells grades of D or even E in addition to the A, B and C grades described above.

We have seen records from some labs that give blastocysts a single letter grade, and no number at all. For example the blasts are simply graded as A's or B's or C's, etc. This system is easier for lab personnel to deal with but at the cost of being less descriptive. There is also some loss of correlation between grading of the blastocysts and expectations for successful pregnancy outcome.

Learn about day 3 embryo quality and grading

Early blastocyst grading photos:

Early blastocyst IVF embryo picture
Early blastocyst from in vitro fertilization
Grade 1AB early blastocyst human embryo

Early blastocyst

Early blastocyst

1AB
Cavity very small = Can't yet grade
Inner cell mass = Can't yet grade
Trophectoderm = Can't yet grade
Cavity very small = Can't yet grade
Inner cell mass = Can't yet grade
Trophectoderm = Can't yet grade
Cavity < 1/2 embryo's volume = 1
Inner cell mass = A
Trophectoderm = B


Intermediate blastocyst grading pictures:

Stage 2BB blastocyst
Stage 2BC blastocyst
Image of stage 3BB blastocyst

2BB

2BC 3BB
Cavity > 1/2 embryo's volume = 2
Inner cell mass = B
Trophectoderm = B
Cavity > 1/2 embryo's volume = 2
Inner cell mass = B
Trophectoderm = C
Cavity completely fills embryo = 3
Inner cell mass = B
Trophectoderm = B


Large, well expanded blastocyst grading images:

Blastocyst of high quality grade 4AA for IVF
Grade 4AB blastocyst picture from IVF
Image of 4BB grade blastocyst

4AA

4AB
4BB
Well expanded = 4
Inner cell mass = A
Trophectoderm = A
Well expanded = 4
Inner cell mass = A
Trophectoderm = B
Well expanded = 4
Inner cell mass = B
Trophectoderm = B


Hatching and hatched blastocyst grading pictures:

Hatching blastocyst coming out of shell
5AA
Blastocyst hatching out of shell = 5
Inner cell mass = A
Trophectoderm = A

Picture of a hatching blastocyst on day 6 of in vitro culture

It is almost completely hatched out of its shell (seen at lower left of image)
After a blastocyst hatches, it begins to invade into the uterine lining to "implant"
This embryo has a quality grade of 5AA (inner cell mass seen at the bottom is out of the plane of focus)
The dark areas at the top and lower right of the photo are shadows in the drop of culture media

Completely hatched human blastocyst picture
6AA
Blastocyst hatching out of shell = 6
Inner cell mass = A
Trophectoderm = A

Completely hatched blastocyst

This embryo has a quality grade of 6AA
The tightly packed inner cell mass seen at 3 to 4 o'clock in this picture

A healthy blastocyst will implant within one to four days following a day 5 transfer, with invasion of the cells into the uterine lining occurring soon after blastocyst hatching.

Our blastocyst grading system at the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago

  • We use a modified version of the Gardner grading system because our embryologists can not stand to be limited to only 3 grading levels for ICM and TE cells
  • The expansion grading is the same as Gardner's
  • We use 4 grades, A-D for the ICM and TE
    • A is the same as Gardner's A
    • B is "not quite A, but still quite good"
    • C is "not quite B, but not bad"
    • D is for very few cells
More pictures of blastocysts
Pictures of human eggs and embryos at other stages of development
Babies who had our help
 
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