Can Dead Sperm Be Used for ICSI?

Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022
Can Dead Sperm Be Used for ICSI
Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cannot be done with dead sperm because it will not result in a viable embryo

Dead sperm cannot be used for intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). While fertilization may be successful, the DNA derived from dead sperm is too degenerated to result in the formation of a viable embryo.

What is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)?

ICSI is a method of fertilization in which sperm is injected directly into the egg. This means that the egg is fertilized outside of the body rather than inside it. ICSI procedures may result in a successful pregnancy for couples who are struggling with infertility

When it comes to male infertility concerns, this type of in vitro fertilization (IVF) is the most effective option with a higher success rate than traditional IVF.

What type of sperm can be used for ICSI?

It is possible to get immature sperm from the testicles or the epididymis to use in ICSI in men who have no sperm in their ejaculated semen but do have sperm in their testicles (azoospermia).

The sperm sample should be made after a standard 3-day abstinence period. This is how you can tell if you have absolute azoospermia. It is very important to look at an additional sample because sometimes the second sample can have moving sperm (even when the first one does not). Antibiotics must be used to treat any infections that are found.

It is necessary to carefully choose sperm that can be used for ICSI if no reason can be identified or no therapy is available. Otherwise, there is nothing further to do. Using ejaculated sperm is pointless if all the sperm are dead (a condition known as necrozoospermia). 

The procedure of testicular sperm aspiration may be beneficial in this case. It is preferable to have the procedure done the day before the egg retrieval. There have been instances in which sperm of testicular origin began to move after being incubated in culture media overnight.

How is ICSI done?

During the procedure, the woman undergoes ovarian stimulation with fertility medications to help her body produce several mature eggs.

Vaginal ultrasonography is used to aspirate the eggs, which are then sent to an embryology laboratory where they are incubated until they are ready for transfer. 

The sperm sample is produced by centrifuging or spinning the sperm cells to separate them from the other cells. This separates the living sperm from the majority of the dead sperm in the sample. The embryologist next uses a glass needle to pick up the single living sperm and insert it straight into the egg.

How is ICSI different from IVF?

ICSI is a form of IVF. IVF is the classic procedure in which millions of sperm are placed close to an egg within a laboratory dish. Conception may not occur if none of the sperm fertilize the egg. 

Through the direct injection of a single sperm into a single egg, ICSI helps increase the likelihood of conception. However, ICSI does not ensure successful fertilization. 

A fertilized egg or embryo is implanted into the cavity of the woman’s uterus or womb in both ICSI and conventional IVF procedures. Pregnancy occurs when the embryo adheres to the lining of your uterus, which is called implantation.

When is ICSI beneficial?

When it comes to fertility issues, ICSI can help in the following cases:

  • Sperm production is insufficient
  • Sperm motility is bad (meaning the sperm are not swimming well)
  • Traditional IVF has failed to produce viable embryos, regardless of the state of the sperm
  • An obstruction in the male reproductive system prevents sperm from exiting the male reproductive tract


Men and women are equally likely to have fertility problems. See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 5/20/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

Cleveland Clinic. Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI).

Alukal JP, Lamb DJ. Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)--what are the risks? Urol Clin North Am. 2008;35(2):277-x.