Sperm collection is completely different from a diagnostic testicular biopsy because, in this context, the goal is not to identify what is happening in the testicle but to look for sperm.
Only men with no sperm in their ejaculate (azoospermia) need to have sperm retrieved directly from the testis or epididymis.
Very few tests allow for an accurate prediction of whether or not sperm will be found in the testes of men with testicular problems. Genetic testing may give insight into the chance of finding sperm but are not absolute. The pattern of the problem of the testis found at the time of a diagnostic testicular biopsy may be slightly predictive, but again there is no finding that absolutely predicts the presence or absence of sperm. Other blood tests, including hormonal studies, are not predictive.
The timing of sperm harvesting in conjunction with the in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle is a difficult matter to resolve. There are advantages for and against doing the sperm harvesting prior to the IVF cycle or in conjunction with the harvesting of the female partner’s eggs. The ultimate decision is made by the preference of the IVF program. Performing the harvesting in advance and freezing the sperm until the eggs are harvested allows the couple to make an informed decision about whether to go forward with IVF, since in most circumstances the chance of finding sperm may be only 60 percent or less.
There are numerous ways to harvest sperm from a man with normal sperm production and a blockage. The simplest and most cost-effective is an aspiration of sperm. This is routinely performed under local anaesthesia and takes approximately 10 minutes.
Harvesting sperm from a man with a testicular problem is much more difficult and often takes several hours. The ideal procedure, microTESE, is performed with the aid of a surgical microscope whereby the chances of finding sperm are increased and the amount of tissue taken out of the testis can be minimized.
TESA is a procedure performed for men who are having sperm retrieved for IVF/ICSI. It is done with local anaesthesia in the operating room or office and is coordinated with their female partner’s egg retrieval. A needle is inserted in the testicle and tissue/sperm are aspirated. TESA is performed for men with obstructive azoospermia (s/p vasectomy). Occasionally, TESA doesn’t provide enough tissue/sperm and an open testis biopsy is needed.
PESA is a procedure performed for men who are having sperm retrieved for IVF/ICSI who have obstructive azoospermia from either a prior vasectomy or infection. It is done with local anesthesia in the operating room or office and is coordinated with their female partner’s egg retrieval.
TESE involves making a small incision in the testis and examining the tubules for the presence of sperm. It is either done as a scheduled procedure or is coordinated with their female partner’s egg retrieval. TESE is usually performed in the operating room with sedation, but can be performed in the office with local anesthesia alone. Patients usually cryopreserve sperm during this procedure for future IV/ICSI. MicroTESE has replaced this as the optimal form of retrieval for men with no sperm
in their ejaculate (azoospermia) from a problem with production.
MESA is a procedure performed for men who have vasal or epididymal obstruction (s/p vasectomy, congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens). It is either done as a scheduled procedure or is coordinated with their female partner’s egg retrieval. MESA is performed in the operating room with general anesthesia utilizing the operating microscope. Patients usually cryopreserve sperm during this procedure for future IVF/ICSI. MESA allows for an extensive collection of mature sperm as compared to aspiration techniques, and it is the preferred method of retrieval for men with congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens as it does not impact steroid production of the testis.
MicroTESE is a procedure performed for men who have a sperm production problem and are azoospermic. Micro TESE is performed in the operating room with general anaesthesia under the operating microscope. Micro TESE is carefully coordinated with the female partner’s egg retrieval, and is performed the day before egg retrieval. This allows for each partner to be there for the other’s procedure. Patients frequently have donor sperm backup in case sperm are not found in the male partner. MicroTESE has significantly improved sperm retrieval rates in azoospermic men, and is a safer procedure since less testicular tissue is removed. Patients cryopreserve sperm during this procedure for future IVF/ICSI.