The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of zona drilling and biopsy on day 3 followed by vitrification on day 5 on the cytoskeleton and development of human embryos, by analysing survival rates and spindle and chromosome configurations by fluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy in human biopsied and non-biopsied embryos. In total, 98 human blastocysts (50 non-biopsied and 48 following biopsy on day 3) were vitrified on day 5 using either a commercial dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO)-free vitrification kit or increasing concentrations of DMSO/EG (5%/5–10%/10–20%/20%). Following warming, the blastocysts were allowed to recover in culture for 24 h and were immunostained with α-tubulin, acetylated tubulin, and/or γ-tubulin antibodies in combination with 4′,6-diamidino-2-phenylindole (DAPI). Labelled embryos were examined by both fluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy. The survival rates following warming (92% non-biopsied vs 83.3% biopsied) and the incidence of normal spindle chromosome configurations was not statistically different between the two groups (65.2% non-biopsied vs 59.2% biopsied, P>0.05). The incidence of spindle abnormalities including multipolarity, chromosome lagging, congression failure and chromosome bridging were also similar between the two groups (P>0.05). This study is the first to compare the incidence of cytoskeletal abnormalities in biopsied and non-biopsied human embryos following vitrification. We conclude that there was no significant difference in the survival rates and the incidence of spindle abnormalities between the two groups.