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Does freezing surgically-retrieved sperm affect success?

15th August 2013 in Treatments

This information was correct at the time of publishing. It may not reflect our current practices, prices or regulations.

For some men, their only hope of using their own sperm to have a family of their own is to undergo a procedure called Surgical Sperm Retrieval (SSR). There are various different methods of SSR, dependent upon your diagnosis, but they all involve retrieving sperm from various areas within the testicles. SSR is used when tests show you are not producing any sperm in your sample.

At Manchester Fertility, any sperm we do retrieve using Surgical Sperm Retrieval techniques such as PESA (Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration), MESA (Micro-epididymal Sperm Aspiration) or TESE (Testicular Sperm Extraction), is frozen.

But does freezing sperm retrieved via SSR affect the chances of it being used successfully? A new study which analysed the outcomes of 136 men who had sperm retrieved via biopsies showed that frozen sperm was just as effective as fresh sperm in terms of pregnancy rates.

At Manchester Fertility, in all cases of SSR, sperm collected by PESA and MESA is frozen and stored at once. Sperm collected from TESE is kept in our laboratory for at least 24 hours before being frozen. Sperm is stored under liquid nitrogen at such a low temperature (-196°C) that is does not deteriorate during storage.

A tiny amount of sperm is thawed to assess if enough sperm have survived the freezing and thawing process. Any sperm which survive can then be used forIntracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) treatment, a form of fertility treatment similar to IVF, where a single healthy sperm is injected directly into the egg to fertilise it.

IVF isn’t recommended in cases where sperm has been obtained through SSR, simply because the number of sperm retrieved is usually low and so ICSI gives the best chance of pregnancy.

Our Consultant Urologist, Steve Payne, is a leading expert in the field of SSR. However, whether the sperm then fertilises the egg is dependent upon a number of factors, including the number of eggs and egg quality, and whether the sperm survives the freeze/thaw process.

If you have any questions about SSR and your treatment options if you aren’t producing any sperm, please contact our friendly team on 0161 300 2737.

Last updated: 20th January 2020