What is the Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)?

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is an assisted reproduction procedure that involves fertilization of the oocytes by the injection of a single sperm.

One sperm is injected into an egg to facilitate the fertilization. This is usually the preliminary step in the IVF process, and there are differences between this technique and classical In Vitro fertilization. The steps before and after insemination are the same for a classic In Vitro fertilization, but the technique used for the insemination changes. In order to perform ICSI, only one sperm is required per ovule, while in a classic in vitro fertilization without ICSI, between 50,000 and 100,000 sperm cells are needed, which must fight to conquer the barriers of the ovule.

ICSI Frequently Asked Questions:

What is ICSI?

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection describes the process by which a single sperm is isolated,collected and injected directly into a human egg. This technique is often the preferred method of starting IVF when male fertility is indicated as the probable cause of inability to conceive. Low sperm counts or low sperm motility reduce the chances of conception.

ICSI also helps when a patient has azoospermia, where there are no active sperm in the man's ejaculations. Sperm can be blocked by a vasectomy, a congenital condition or other health reasons. The chances of obtaining viable sperm due to azoospermia are low.

How is an ICSI performed?

First, a semen sample is collected from which to harvest the sperm. This may be via ejaculation or through needle aspiration. A single sperm is located and harvested under the microscope using a tiny glass pipette.

The pipette then penetrates the outer surface of the egg, and the sperm is injected directly into the egg, bypassing the need for the sperm to penetrate the egg’s surface itself. Once the egg is fertilized, the embryo is ready for transfer to the woman’s uterus.

Are there risks related to the ICSI procedure?

Some studies indicate there may be an increased risk of birth defects associated with artificial insemination in general, and the ICSI procedure, in particular. Imprinting defects are a phenomenon in which genes function differently depending on whether specific chromosomes are passed on by the mother or the father. There is, however, no consensus, with some researchers believing the level of occurrence of imprinting defects is similar to that experienced through natural pregnancy.

Other risks include complications arising from the needle aspiration procedure to obtain sperm, should it be required. The procedure is simple enough and performed under local anesthetic. There is the potential for pain, swelling, or infection of the aspiration site. For the woman, ICSI adds no additional risk beyond those already associated with both preparatory and later stages of IVF treatment.

Did you know?

The standard ICSI procedure usually suggests implanting 2 or more embryos, though the transfer of a single embryo may take place when certain quality and patient criteria align.

In Global Fertility & Genetics we are experts in the Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection technique and we would love to help you and your family!