Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

Within the niche of assisted reproductive technology or ART, the use ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) is becoming increasingly common. ICSI is commonly used in IVF treatments. It was first used in 1992 and has since revolutionized fertility treatment in many ways.

Understanding Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection

ICSI is particularly recommended to IVF men who suffer from low sperm count or who have a restricted supply of potent, healthy sperms. Similarly, other sperm-related problems like presence of anti-sperm antibodies in the seminal fluid are indicative of using ICSI. A common application of ICSI is among men who have undergone irreversible vasectomy or men who are suffering from decreased sperm production after a recent vasectomy reversal. In a general perspective, all IVF men who are suffering from the absence or severe deficit of potent sperm are candidates for ICSI treatment.

This treatment has been a boon for couples who don’t want to use donor sperms for their IVF procedure. This wide application of ICSI for male fertility problems stems from the fact that ICSI is extremely capable of establishing fertilization with just one sperm. Understandably, even among cases of severe deficiency of sperm among IVF men, extracting a single sperm is possible through modern sperm extraction methods. Combined with the high precision and success rate of ICSI, this means that fertilization is usually possible with a very limited number of extracted and medically prepped sperm.

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection does lengthen the IVF treatment by a bit but it is largely safe and is being used with increasing regularity in IVF treatments across the world. In fact, some couples tend to opt for ICSI even though healthy sperm is readily available. This is essentially because the precision of ICSI technology means a higher chance of establishing fertilization with minimal attempts. This is a major improvement over conventional IVF technology wherein repeated attempts are often needed.

Please note that sometimes ICSI might be recommended to overcome female infertility problems in IVF. This is seen when the oocytes are rather rigid in terms of being hostile to the sperm and seem to resist fertilization in the usual, IVF methodology, i.e. in vitro fertilization using culture media.

How Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection Is Performed

The procedure is best carried out by fertility clinics that are equipped with the latest of surgical aids. The procedure involves the use of special injectors and pipettes. Prior to the actual ICSI procedure, the fertility clinic ensures that it has a ready supply of a handful of potent sperms. Please note that this might mean repeated, prior visits for the IVF male wherein sperm extraction methods are used to procure the sperm. The sperm is then washed or treated otherwise to ensure it potency.

On the scheduled date of ICSI treatment, the IVF male and female report to the clinic. The female is prepared for oocyte retrieval wherein her egg cells are retrieved. Again, the egg retrieval is timed to perfection to ensure that healthy eggs are immediately available for ICSI. Using trans-vaginal needles, the healthy oocytes are aspirated. This process usually takes under 30 minutes and causes minimal discomfort to the IVF female.

The fertility technician proceeds with using the surgical tools to collect a single sperm from the prepared samples and inserts it into the oocyte or egg cell of the female. Unlike the natural process of fertilization, the sperm is given an advantage during the ICSI process.

Here, the sperm is injected deeper into the oocyte. This ensures that the sperm has minimal layering of the egg cell to pass through, on its way to establish fertilization. However, some conservationists have raised the issue that this is an unfair and manipulative form of fertilization but largely, this technology is popular since it presents an appreciable success rate.