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Frozen and fresh sperm equally effective after sperm extraction

In some cases of male factor infertility when a man is unable to produce sperm (e.g. due to cancer, a physiological obstruction preventing the sperm from being released, paralysis, non-obstructive azoospermia), a medical procedure can be done where sperm are surgically removed from his testicles during a biopsy (testicular sperm extraction or TSE). Typically, the retrieved sperm are then injected into the freshly harvested eggs of the female partner following the superovulation stage of in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process is known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) and involves a single sperm being injected into each of the available eggs with the goal of achieving fertilization. The assumption has been that ICSI will be more successful using “fresh” rather than “frozen” sperm, when the sperm have been surgically retrieved through TSE.

However, the results of a recent study published in the journal PLOS ONE suggests that sperm that is frozen after being surgically extracted through TSE appears to be equally as effective as fresh TSE sperm in leading to a pregnancy through IVF. In this study, researchers analyzed 15 years of data from the Washington University Infertility and Reproductive Medicine Centre on the fertilization and live birth rates of 76 couples following TSE. The results of the study demonstrated that frozen and fresh sperm performed equally as well in leading to a pregnancy, expect for men with non-obstructive azoospermia.

Using frozen sperm in conjunction with ICSI may offer couples more flexibility during the IVF process. When fresh sperm is used after TSE, the biopsy for the male partner and egg extraction for the female partner must be coordinated and occur within a day of one another. When frozen sperm is used, the male partner may undergo the TSE procedure in advance of his partner’s surgery, potentially simplifying the process.

To read the study article, click here.

To read more about ICSI, click here. 

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