In men with azoospermia (complete absence of sperm in the semen), surgical sperm extraction from the testis or epididymis might be their only option. Recent research has also shown that in men with sperm present in their semen, but of very low concentration and quality, surgically extracted sperm directly from the testicle is often completely normal.
The handling of surgically retrieved sperm then becomes a major logistical challenge. If a couple wanted to use fresh eggs and fresh sperm on the same day for IVF or ICSI, both partners would need to undergo surgery simultaneously. If this single cycle fails, there would be no back-up.
“Sperm Freezing” addresses this dilemma and retains precious sperm in storage. If a cycle of IVF or ICSI fails to create embryos, or embryo transfer fails to result in a pregnancy, further cycles of assisted fertility treatment can be attempted later.
Cryopreservation technology aims to preserve the normal function of cells at very low temperatures, where normal cellular function does not take place.
Cryopreservation of surgically retrieved sperm (in comparison to healthy ejaculated semen) is more cumbersome and difficult because of
- low number of retrieved sperm
- lack of sperm motility
- contaminated with high proportion of cellular debris and red blood cells.
However, it is perfectly feasible in the hands of trained embryologists. Cryopreservation of testicular spermatozoa on the day of biopsy is an upcoming strategy, since many studies have shown that there are no significant differences in terms of fertilization and embryo developmental rates compared with those of fresh testicular sperm.
At the Reproductive Health Group, this technology is part of our standard services. If you would like to talk to us about sperm freezing, please call us on 01925 202180 or contact us here.