ICSI Can Help Make Conception Possible When Sperm Numbers Are Very Low
Male infertility is just as common as female fertility issues, which is why fertility doctors typically ask male partners to provide a semen sample for analysis. The results of a semen analysis can provide vital information about a man’s sperm count and other parameters of sperm health.
If this test reveals that a man has a very low sperm count, the physician may recommend a procedure known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). This laboratory technique helps promote the fertilization of each egg. To prepare for this procedure, Ovation® laboratory staff will first perform an ICSI sperm prep.
Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection Is an Advanced Laboratory Technique
Before we dive into a discussion of ICSI sperm prep, it makes sense to discuss the intracytoplasmic sperm injection process. This laboratory procedure takes place as part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle.
The woman who will provide her eggs will take injectable fertility medications to stimulate egg development. When her eggs are thought to be mature based on ultrasound and lab tests, she will take another medication to initiate the final egg maturation process.
About 36 hours later, she will have an outpatient egg retrieval procedure. Once all of the eggs have been collected, IVF laboratory staff will work on preparing the sperm. If ICSI has been selected as the method of fertilization, an embryologist will isolate a single healthy sperm and inject it into a mature egg.
All the fertilized embryos will then be grown in the laboratory for a predetermined number of days. At the end of that time, either an embryo or embryos will be transferred to the woman’s uterus, the embryos will be biopsied for preimplantation genetic testing or the embryos will be frozen for future use.
ICSI Sperm Prep Helps Make IVF a Success
To perform ICSI, the IVF laboratory team needs to prepare the sperm. First, the team needs a sperm sample from the male patient or a sperm donor. Once they have the sample, they wash and prepare it to separate the high-quality sperm from the low-quality sperm and seminal fluid.
The embryologist then places this concentrated sperm sample in a petri dish and covers it with oil to prevent evaporation. Next, the embryologist scans the drop for the presence of sperm. If sperm is present and there is enough for ICSI, an embryologist can use a microscopic needle to isolate a single sperm and inject it into a mature egg (oocyte). The final step is checking for fertilization the next morning.
If some of the sperm are alive but not moving (non-motile), lab staff may also use pentoxifylline when preparing the sperm for ICSI. Pentoxifylline is harmless to sperm but it acts as a stimulant. If the non-motile sperm react to the chemical and become motile, they can be used for fertilization using ICSI.
If you have more questions about conceiving with help from IVF and ICSI, please contact an Ovation partner physician today.