ICSI - Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection

In order for fertilization to occur, sperm should penetrate the egg. Sometimes the sperm cannot penetrate the outer layer. A procedure called Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) can help fertilize the egg by injecting the sperm directly into the egg.

In traditional IVF, the sperm are mixed with the woman’s egg in a laboratory. If ICSI is needed, a small needle is used to inject a sperm into the center of the egg. The fertilized egg grows in a laboratory for one to five days, then it is placed in the woman’s uterus (womb).

ICSI helps to overcome a man’s fertility problems, for instance:

  • He may produce too few sperm (Condition called Oligozoospermia)
  • His sperm may be not be shaped correctly or move in a normal fashion (Teratozoospermia)
  • The sperm may have trouble attaching to the egg
  • A blockage in his reproductive tract may keep sperm from getting out (Vasectomy or Obstructive Azoospermia etc.,)

ICSI can also be used when the use of traditional IVF has not produced fertilization, regardless of the condition of the sperm.

Potential Risks Associated with ICSI

For the woman’s egg:

Sperm Injection is a very delicate procedure where the sperm has to be carefully introduced into the egg. In this process, on an average 2% of the times, the egg may get damaged and the procedure may fail.

For the child born via ICSI:

So far, thousands of children are born through these procedures across the world. Till now, there is no convincing evidence that children born through IVF or ICSI are any different from those that are born naturally.

Typically, the health condition of the child born mostly depends on the age, health of the mother than the procedure. However, the male offspring that is born through this procedure may have same infertility problem as the father.

Other factors to note:

Men with ‘acquired’ problems wrt infertility can have normal off-springs. But, men with fertility problems since birth may pass on the same to their children due to chromosomal rearrangement or deletion of a tiny part of Y chromosome.

Also, men with low sperm count or an obstruction in their sperm ducts may carry one of the Cystic Fibrosis Genes to the off-spring. If the female parent also has this CF gene and if passed on to the child, the resulting child will most likely have Cystic Fibroids.

Men with very low sperm counts have an increased risk of producing a male off-spring with abnormal number of sex chromosomes. These children will have normal physical appearance and IQs but eventually in their lifetime, they may develop learning difficulties, behavioural problems or infertility.

In order to avoid having such off-springs, couple are advised to undergo required tests such as blood tests, genetic testing etc so that they are sure they will have a perfectly normal child.