ICSI, or Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection, is a highly specialized form of microinjection technique that is usually found in IVF treatments. ICSI was initially introduced in the early part of 1992 as an assistive technique, used to treat infertility induced by male-related causes. In this application, ICSI was considered necessary wherein it was used for the analysis of the male semen. However, now it is widely used as a part of In Vitro Fertilization treatment. This is why some of the clinics refer to their IVF facilities as IVF/ICSI. It should be noted that many IVF clinics offer the option of involving ICSI as a part of the treatment, i.e. to augment the chances of early fertilization. This is because ICSI puts forth an additional expenditure that may not be agreeable to all the patients.
Some possible complications of this procedure are:
Compromised Quality of ICSI Embryos
Though there are little statistical facts to indicate that the quality of an ICSI embryo is less than that of a purely IVF or non-ICSI embryo, there are apprehensions regarding the use of ICSI when it isn't recommended, i.e. for reasons apart from some unresolved problems with the male sperm.
The use of ICSI technique essentially means injecting the sperm into the chosen egg of the female using a medical instrument. The selected sperm is slowly directed through a pipette-like equipment so that it is inserted within the cell of the female oocytes without damaging the outermost, cellular layer of the eggs.
This gives rise to some chances of inducing an unwanted pressure upon the cellular structure of the female egg. Since the injection process can induce some harm upon the egg’s cellular structure, it presents a greater possibility of leading to the development of a damaged or a compromised embryo.
An increased number of damaged embryos yield financial problems for the IVF couple. This is because the IVF technician needs to retrieve a greater number of eggs for repeated fertilization. Among women who are suffering from endometrial diseases or those with any other gynecological problem that hinders repeated egg-retrieval, this can be a major problem.
However, statistics indicate an equal prevalence of successful pregnancies among women who have sought IVF treatment without ICSI and those who have opted for an ICSI-IVF combination. Thus, the chances of ICSI inducing an embryonic problem are very rare.
Possibility of Birth Defects
The use of the IVF-ICSI technique has also given rise to the argument that Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injections are capable of inducing birth-related defects. The approach of inserting a sperm within an egg may induce an unwanted change in the natural course of the fertilization process. This has the potential to harm the fertilized egg in a cloaked manner, i.e. wherein the cellular damage cannot be easily decoded.
This creates the risk of the IVF treatment being rendered ineffective since it is aimed at selecting the healthiest of embryos for implantation in the IVF patient. Contemporary research indicates that the rare cases of ICSI-related problems have indicated of a pattern towards the impaired embryonic development, making the child more susceptible to cardiac problems and behavioral/learning disabilities.
Some of the ICSI-born children have indicated a greater propensity to developing internal urinary and genital defects. However, there is little skepticism among the IVF clinics in using ICSI, as they consider it at par with any other assisted reproductive technology in terms of overall success rates, and this is largely true.