Discrepancies in Embryonic Staging: Towards a Gold Standard

Sander Flierman, Melanie Tijsterman, Melek Rousian, Bernadette S. de Bakker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
28 Downloads (Pure)


For over half a century, the Carnegie staging system has been used for the unification of chronology in human embryo development. Despite the system’s establishment as a “universal” system, Carnegie staging reference charts display a high level of variation. To establish a clear understanding for embryologists and medical professionals, we aimed to answer the following question: does a gold standard of Carnegie staging exist, and if so, which set of proposed measures/characteristics would it include? We aimed to provide a clear overview of the variations in published Carnegie staging charts to compare and analyze these differences and propose potential explanatory factors. A review of the literature was performed, wherein 113 publications were identified and screened based on title and abstract. Twenty-six relevant titles and abstracts were assessed based on the full text. After exclusion, nine remaining publications were critically appraised. We observed consistent variations in data sets, especially regarding embryonic age, varying as large as 11 days between publications. Similarly, for embryonic length, large variations were present. These large variations are possibly attributable to sampling differences, developing technology, and differences in data collection. Based on the reviewed studies, we propose the Carnegie staging system of Prof. Hill as a gold standard amongst the available data sets in the literature.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1084
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was performed with funding from the Amsterdam Reproduction and Development Research Institute and the De Snoo–van’t Hoogerhuijs foundation.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 by the authors.


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