ICSI stands for intracytoplasmic sperm injection, a procedure used to help couples struggling with fertility increase their chances of conceiving. It works in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Fertilization of an egg can only happen when a sperm penetrates the egg. With conventional IVF, many sperm and an egg are placed together with the hope that fertilization occurs naturally.
Sometimes, however, when a male’s sperm is abnormal or doesn’t function properly, it can’t penetrate the egg. During ICSI, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to help with fertilization.
ICSI is most commonly recommended to treat male infertility. But couples often use ICSI even without a male fertility issue to maximize their chances of conceiving. If ICSI is successful, the embryo (formed by the egg and sperm) is grown in a laboratory for several days before being transferred to the woman’s uterus, as with conventional IVF.
Who should use ICSI?
Male infertility accounts for about one-third of all infertility cases. Women account for another third, and the last third of infertility cases are due to both the members of the couple or unexplained infertility.
There are many different ways a male’s sperm can be impaired or abnormal. ICSI can address most of these issues and greatly improve your chances of conceiving.
Couples also can use ICSI when there is no male fertility diagnosis or when the cause of infertility is unexplained. ICSI can help you conceive if:
- The male partner does not produce an adequate amount of sperm
- The sperm has poor motility or movement
- The male’s sperm is of low quality
- The sperm is blocked
- You’ve had previous failed IVF cycles
- You’re using frozen sperm
- You’re using frozen eggs
ICSI success rates
Since 1991, ICSI’s use in treating male infertility has steadily increased. In 1996, it was used 76.3% of the time to treat male infertility during IVF. In 2012, the rate shot up to 93.3%. Even for couples not diagnosed with male infertility, the use increased from 15.4% in 1996 to 66.9% in 2012.
While ICSI is not a guarantee that the injected sperm will fertilize the egg, it has a 50-80% fertilization success rate. Once the egg is fertilized, that embryo has the same success rate as couples going through conventional IVF.
Risks of using ICSI
As with any invasive procedure, ICSI does come with risks. For example, some of the eggs injected during ICSI may become damaged, or the embryos created with ICSI may stop growing.
ICSI is also associated with a slightly higher chance of birth defects than with natural conception, but about the same as IVF without ICSI. Certain conditions such as Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Angelman syndrome, and sex chromosome abnormalities have been associated with a minimal number of children (less than 1%) conceived with ICSI.
If you’d like more information about ICSI and how the procedure can help you conceive, call reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist Vicken Sepilian, MD. Dr. Sepilian sees patients from the greater Los Angeles area at his Glendale and Santa Monica, California, locations.