ICSI is very similar to conventional IVF in that gametes (eggs and sperm) are collected from each partner. The difference between the two procedures is the method of achieving fertilization.

In conventional IVF, the eggs and sperm are mixed together in a dish and the sperm fertilizes the egg ‘naturally’. However to have a change that this will occur, Large numbers of actively swimming normal sperm are required. For many couples, the number of suitable sperm available may be very limited or there may be other factors preventing fertilization, so conventional IVF is not an option. ICSI has provided a hope for these couples.

ICSI refers to the laboratory procedure where a single sperm is picked up with a fine glass needle and is injected directly into each egg. This carried out in the laboratory by experienced embryologists using specialist equipment. Very few sperm are required and the ability of the sperm to penetrate the egg is no longer as this has been assisted by the ICSI technique. ICSI does not occur once the sperm has been placed in the egg.

Who is ICSI suitable for?

From a patient perspective, undergoing an ICSI treatment cycle is exactly the same as a conventional IVF cycle, and the same steps are involved.

Circumstances in which ICSI may be appropriate include:

  • When the sperm count is very low

  • When the sperm cannot move properly or are in other ways abnormal

  • When sperm has been retrieved surgically from the epididymis (MESA/PESA) or the testes.

  • (TESE/TESA) from urine or following electro ejaculation

  • When there are high levels of antibodies in the semen

  • When there has been a previous fertilization failure using conventional IVF

What does ICSI involve?

From the patients perspective undergoing an ICSI treatment cycle is exactly the same as conventional IVF cycle.

  • Stimulation of the ovaries to encourage development and maturation of the eggs

  • Retrieval of eggs

  • Fertilization of eggs and culture of embryos

  • Transfer of the embryos back into the uterus.

The success rates for ICSI are higher than if you use conventional methods. A lot depends on your particular fertility problem and your age. The younger you are, the healthier your eggs usually are and the higher your chances of success