Surgical Sperm Retrieval: What does it mean and when is it useful?
As the name suggests, surgical sperm retrieval is a procedure used to extract sperm directly from the epidymis – the ‘sperm reservoir’ found at the back of each testis, where sperm matures and is held before being passed through the vas deferens (the tubes that transport sperm from the testes to the penis).
As one of Suks Minhas’ areas of expertise, London Andrology Clinic receives regular enquiries about surgical sperm retrieval (SSR). Here’s an introduction to why and how SSR is performed:
Surgical sperm retrieval after a vasectomy
Surgical sperm retrieval can be useful in a number of cases. These include when a couple wishes to become pregnant after a man has had a vasectomy. Although vasectomy reversal is possible and frequently performed, some couples may choose to extract sperm via SSR instead. This may then be injected directly into a woman’s egg via an IVF technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Our ICSI information video explains more.
Azoospermia and surgical sperm retrieval
Surgical sperm retrieval can also be useful after male infertility tests have revealed problems with a man’s sperm. A normal sperm count is usually anything from 15 million sperm per millimetre of semen and above. Anything below this is generally considered a low sperm count, and some men can have no sperm present in their ejaculate at all, known as azoospermia. This is usually diagnosed after two rounds of sperm analysis.
Being diagnosed with azoospermia, or zero sperm count, can understandably be shocking and distressing – but depending on the underlying cause there are things we can do, including surgical sperm retrieval. Our ‘Male Infertility’ pages contain more information about the causes, tests and treatments available.
What SSR techniques can be used?
The surgical sperm retrieval technique used for azoospermia largely depends on what’s causing the problem, and whether there is a blockage or obstruction detected that’s preventing sperm from reaching the penis.
For obstructive azoospermia, a technique called percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA) can be used, which involves extracting sperm directly from the epididymis and often only requires a local anaesthetic.
Azoospermia can occur without blockages too. For non-obstructive disorders, a procedure called micro-dissection testicular sperm extraction (TESE) may be used, where a testicular tissue biopsy is taken and sperm cells are extracted from it. Our information video on different SSR techniques explains more.
If you’d like to find out more about male infertility tests and surgical sperm retrieval, book a consultation with Suks Minhas today.