Vital Staining of Sperm

Vital Staining of Sperm Helps Andrologists Pick out Live, Non-Motile Sperm

A male infertility evaluation will be a part of your first visit to an Ovation® partner physician. An important part of the evaluation is a semen analysis, which will determine if there are problems with the sperm that could be causing male infertility.

During the semen analysis, an andrologist examines the sperm for movement

While every man will produce some live sperm that are unable to swim due to immaturity or defects, it is a problem if a large portion of the sperm cannot move. If the andrologist notices that less than 5% of the sperm are moving, he or she will perform a vital staining of the sperm to determine if the non-motile sperm are dead or alive.

With vital staining of sperm, an andrologist counts the number of dead and living sperm

A small portion of the sample will be used for vital staining of sperm. The andrologist will add a drop of red stain to the sperm on a slide. If the sperm is alive, it will prevent the red stain from entering it, and it will stay white. In contrast, a dead sperm’s outer membrane has lost the ability to block the stain. As a result, dead sperm will absorb the stain and turn red. Basically, if it’s white, it’s alright. If it’s red, it’s dead.

The andrologist will then count the number of living and non-living sperm. Then, the number of live sperm will be recorded as a percentage of living sperm in the entire sample.

• Let’s say that an andrologist finds 100 sperm in the initial semen sample, but none of those sperm are moving.

• After performing the vital staining of sperm, the andrologist finds that 70 sperm did not turn red, but 30 did. This means that 70 sperm are alive, while 30 are dead.

• The andrologist will report that the stain result is 70% living. If this sample was going to be used for intracytoplasmic sperm injection, 70% of the sperm would be available to inject into the eggs.

Vital staining of sperm is a very important test. It can allow couples and their physician to learn how many sperm are actually viable. This knowledge is a critical piece of information that can help patients and their physicians decide how to best treat male infertility.

Want to know more about male infertility? Please contact an Ovation partner physician today.