The technique Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is where a singe sperm is injected directly into an egg under laboratory conditions. The egg is usually obtained from the female partner through the same processes used in standard in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment.
In cases where the male partner has problems ejaculating, a fine needle is inserted into the testis under either local or general anaesthesia. The needle gently removes sperm from the testicle to then be injected into the egg in the laboratory. A testicular biopsy is sometimes taken if there is a problem obtaining sufficient sperm. The procedure will cause a little bruising and discomfort for a day or two but most patients can resume their daily activities within 48 hours.
ICSI treatment is traditionally used in cases where there are a low number of sperm in the ejaculate (Oligozoospermia), there are significant numbers of abnormal sperm (Teratzoospemia), or there is insufficient movement of the sperm (Athenzoospermia). The technique addresses these sperm problem by requiring the presence of just one healthy sperm. The technicians in the laboratory do the rest.
However, an increasing number of couples are choosing to have the treatment even where there is no obvious problem with the male's sperm. This is due to a number of reasons such as unexplained infertility or previous poor results with standard IVF. The fact that many clinics are now boasting higher success levels with ICSI than standard IVF is also encouraging couples to sign up.
ICSI treatment on the NHS will usually only be available in cases where there is a problem with the male's sperm. Hospitals will sometimes provide treatment to couples with unexplained infertility. But in general, if you want ICSI with IVF and your partner has healthy sperm, you will need to pay for the procedure at a private clinic.
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