What is ICSI?

Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) is a technique where a single sperm is given a helping hand to ‘enter’ the egg.

Since it only takes one single sperm to fertilise the egg, the embryologist catches a single sperm and injects it directly into the centre of the egg. This method is far more successful when there is male infertility problems. ICSI sounds pretty simple but is one of the most technically challenging roles for an embryologist.

Who can use ICSI?

ICSI can be an option for patients who have:

• an abnormally low sperm count or poor motility
• a high percentage of abnormal sperm or few healthy sperm
• sperm obtained via testicular biopsy or micro TESE
• previously low fertilization rates with standard IVF

It is important to note that there is growing evidence that IVF success rates are actually better when standard insemination techniques are used instead of ICSI in couples who don’t fit the above categories.

ICSI can be used with fresh or frozen/thawed sperm. Our scientists will choose the best sperm from the sample, based on it being a normal shape, size and motility (movement).

How is an ICSI done?

The egg is placed in customized dishes under a microscope and moved using a leading micro-manipulator. A holding pipette secures the mature egg and then a thin, sharp glass micropipette, loaded with a single sperm, pushes first through the zona pellucida (outer egg casing) and then the oolemma (the cell membrane of the egg) to enter the centre (cytoplasm). The sperm is most delicately deposited into the centre of the egg.

In other words, we do all of the work for the sperm – no swimming or penetration of the egg involved. The only thing left for the sperm to do is make the ‘spark’ of fertilisation happen.

After the ICSI procedure, the egg is placed into the incubator and checked the following day for signs of fertilisation.

As ICSI is more invasive and requires more handling than standard IVF insemination techniques, there is a small chance (less than 2%) that the egg may be damaged during the procedure – resulting in a non-viable egg.