Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI)

ICSI is a type of IVF (In vitro fertilisation) treatment that involves drawing up a single sperm into a very fine glass needle and injecting it directly into the centre of the egg.

The fertilised egg (embryo) can then be transferred into the womb of the woman as in a normal IVF cycle. ICSI is a relatively new technique (introduced into clinical treatment for certain types of infertility in 1992), but has already helped many couples. The live birth rates for ICSI and conventional IVF are similar.

This method bypasses any natural barriers that may have been preventing fertilisation. For example, some cases of infertility are due to the sperm of a male partner not being able to penetrate the outer part of the egg to fertilise the egg.

The major development of ICSI means that as long as some sperm can be obtained (even in very low numbers), fertilisation is possible.

Is ICSI for me? 

ICSI is often recommended if:

  • The male partner has a very low sperm count.
  • Other problems with the sperm have been identified, such as poor morphology (abnormally shaped) and/or poor motility (poor swimmers).
  • At previous attempts at IVF there was either failure of fertilisation or an unexpectedly low fertilisation rate.
  • The male partner has had a vasectomy and sperm have been collected from the testicles or epididymis (sperm reservoir).
  • Other situations where the sperm count is zero and donor insemination is not wanted.
  • The male partner does not ejaculate any sperm but sperm have been collected from the testicles.
  • The male partner has had problems obtaining an erection and ejaculating. This includes men with spinal cord injuries, diabetes and other disorders.
  • When there have been previous fertilisation failures.

What does ICSI involve? 

ICSI is similar to conventional IVF in that eggs and sperm are collected from each partner. To achieve fertilisation, a single sperm is taken up in a fine glass needle and is injected directly into an egg. The eggs are then incubated and examined. Usually one or two embryos may then be transferred back into the womb of the woman two or three days after fertilisation. Some eggs may not survive the injection process and not all eggs collected will be of a high enough quality or mature enough to be suitable for injection.