Processing and selection of surgically-retrieved sperm for ICSI: a review

Abstract Although the technique of intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) has been a revolution in the alleviation of male infertility, the use of testicular sperm for ICSI was a formerly unseen breakthrough in the treatment of the azoospermic man with primary testicular failure.

At the clinical level, different procedures of testicular sperm retrieval (conventional TESE, micro-TESE, FNA/TESA, MESA, PESA) are being performed, the choice is mainly based on the cause of azoospermia (obstructive versus non-obstructive) and the surgeon’s skills. At the level of the IVF laboratory, mechanical procedures to harvest the sperm from the tissue may be combined with enzymatic treatment in order to increase the sperm recovery rates.

A number of techniques have been developed for viable sperm selection in males with only immotile testicular sperm available. However, large, well-designed studies on the benefit and safety of one over the other technique are lacking. Despite all the available methods and combinations of laboratory procedures which have a common goal to maximize sperm recovery from testicular samples, a large proportion of NOA patients fail to father a genetically own child.

Advanced technology application may improve recovery rates by detection of the testicular foci with active spermatogenesis and/or identification of the rare individual sperm in the testicular suspensions. On the other hand, in vitro spermatogenesis or sperm production from embryonic stem cells or induced pluripotent stem cells might be future options.

The present review summarizes the available strategies which aim to maximize sperm recovery from surgically retrieved samples.


Keywords: Testicular, Epididymal, Obstructive azoospermia, Non-obstructive azoospermia sperm motility, Sperm morphology, Sperm selection, ICSI

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