Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a technique that has been developed to assist fertilisation using very few sperm. If sperm quality is poor, either due to low numbers or because they do not swim very well, or because they are not able to penetrate the barriers surrounding the egg, then infertility can result. ICSI is used successfully to treat these conditions.

Who should have this treatment?

  • Men with very low numbers of sperm
  • Men with poor quality of sperm
  • Men who produce semen in which no sperm is present (see Surgical Sperm Retrieval)
  • Couples who have had previous failure to achieve fertilisation in routine IVF, or when very few eggs have fertilised following IVF

What specific tests may be needed prior to ICSI?

There are conditions associated with severe sperm problems. These include chromosomal abnormalities, cystic fibrosis or a hormonal imbalance. 

  1. Chromosomes carry the genetic information from one generation to the next. They are responsible for determining not only what we look like but making sure that everything works normally. We take blood from the man to check his chromosomes.
  2. Cystic Fibrosis is a condition affecting the lungs and bowels and is also associated with defects that cause male infertility. The chance that a healthy person may carry a risk factor for this condition is 1 in 20. In men with some types of sperm problem, this risk is higher. If both you and your partner carry the risk factor then there is a 1 in 4 chance that your child may be affected. We take blood to screen for this condition.
  3. A hormonal imbalance may be the cause of the abnormal sperm production. Blood is taken to check this.

What does it involve?

For Her

The cycle is the same as for IVF treatment.

For Him

This will depend upon whether a fresh or frozen sample is used, or surgical sperm retrieval is required. 

What happens next?

ICSI treatment involves injecting a single sperm directly into the centre of an egg to assist fertilisation. Once there, the nucleus from the sperm can fuse with the nucleus of the egg completing the normal fertilisation process. The treated eggs are checked to see if fertilisation has occurred . After two or more days, one or two embryos are placed in your womb. Any other good quality embryos may be frozen and stored for your future use.

How successful is it?

As for IVF treatment, success rates depend on a number of factors, but most importantly, the women’s age. The chance does not improve as each hurdle in the treatment process is overcome, therefore it is helpful to know what the success rate is after egg collection and embryo transfer. We regularly publish success rates, so ask for our latest results.