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ICSI treatment

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a common treatment for male fertility problems. It’s a fertilisation method used during IVF, and involves injecting a single healthy sperm directly into an egg. This can help to achieve fertilisation during standard IVF treatment if there is a problem with sperm quality or quantity.

Could ICSI treatment be right for me?

Your fertility specialist might recommend ICSI if you have an especially low sperm count, if your sperm are unusually shaped, or if they suffer from poor motility. It might also be a good option if you’ve previously tried and failed with IVF.

You might consider ICSI treatment if any of the following applies:

  • You have failed to conceive naturally, having tried for a year
  • Fertility tests have shown you have low sperm count or poor sperm quality
  • Your sperm are unable to penetrate or fertilise an egg
  • A man cannot produce or ejaculate sperm, either due to a blockage or after a vasectomy.

When is ICSI recommended?

Before a fertility specialist recommends ICSI, they’ll run some tests to understand the cause of your fertility issues. They make put you forward for ICSI treatment if any of the following comes to light:

  • The quantity or quality of your sperm is unsuitable for conventional IVF treatment
  • Your sperm has been collected surgically
  • You’ve had low or no fertilisation with IVF treatment previously
  • You are using frozen eggs in your treatment
  • Your sperm shows high levels of DNA damage

Occasionally your consultant may still recommend ICSI with IVF, even if there don’t appear to be any issues with your sperm. ICSI has been shown to help improve success rates for people who have not been successful with IVF in previous treatment cycles.

What does the ICSI procedure involve?

During ICSI treatment, we inject a single sperm directly into the centre of an egg. After a few days of development and observation in the lab, we place the embryo in the womb exactly the same way as with IVF treatment.

The video shows the process of Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). The egg is held in place while a single sperm is injected into the cytoplasm of the egg using a fine needle.

What are the success rates with ICSI?

National ICSI success rates range between 50% and 80% of eggs being fertilised. While this doesn’t guarantee conception, it is a slightly higher rate of success compared to IVF because it virtually guarantees that the sperm penetrates the egg. There is no significant difference in pregnancy rates between IVF and ICSI. For more information on ICSI success rates by location, you can see our individual clinic success rates for further information.

How much does ICSI treatment cost?

Prices are indicative only but include monitoring, egg collection, embryo culture and transfer. Prices do not include drugs or other optional costs - costs typically £1,395.

Elective freeze of embryos (excluding transfer)
ICSI (in addition to IVF)

Common ICSI FAQs

We understand that you’ll probably have a lot of questions (and there are a lot of acronyms to get your head around!). Here are some of the most common questions we get about ICSI with IVF.

From a patient’s point of view, ICSI is much the same as IVF – it is what happens in the laboratory that differs. With IVF, the eggs are put in a petri dish together with several thousand prepared sperm, then left overnight for fertilisation to hopefully occur. With ICSI, each mature egg is injected directly with a single sperm under a high-powered microscope.

Whether IVF or ICSI is used, eggs are incubated in the laboratory overnight and examined the following day for signs of fertilisation.

ICSI is a delicate and precise technique that requires the use of specialist micromanipulation equipment by highly skilled practitioners. 

ICSI can only be performed on mature eggs. Usually, we expect about 75% of eggs to be mature.

ICSI maximises the chances of fertilisation where there is known to be an issue with sperm quality or quantity. Over 90% of couples having IVF treatment with ICSI will achieve fertilisation of some of their eggs. Fertilisation cannot be absolutely guaranteed because numerous factors affect this, including egg number and quality.

The embryologists choose the sperm that are the most motile (best swimmers) and which look the most normal shape. 

The injection technique may sometimes damage individual eggs. The overall damage rate is low (below 5% of eggs injected) but may be higher for individual patients, depending on egg quality.

ICSI bypasses many of the processes normally associated with fertilisation, which means that a sperm could fertilise an egg that might not otherwise do so. The risk of miscarriage or a birth defect is slightly higher with ICSI than with IVF. It appears to increase in proportion to the severity of male infertility and it is thought this factor contributes most to any increased risk, rather than the actual ICSI technique itself.

There have been large multi-centre studies looking at the development of children born after ICSI compared to naturally conceived controls and the data has been very reassuring. According to The Practice Committee for the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, studies to date support the safety and efficacy of ICSI to treat various male factor conditions.

We will continue to monitor ongoing research into outcomes for ICSI children and will ensure that you are given up-to-date information regarding any potential risks before you commence any treatment. Counselling is available to help you.

Why choose Care?

We have been using ICSI with IVF for 30 years and have helped many patients with this technique, consistently achieving high fertilisation success rates.

Our focus is on individualised treatment and we will only recommend ICSI if we believe it is appropriate for your treatment and will make a difference.

If you have any questions or are ready to book a consultation, you can call our new patient enquiry team on 0800 564 2270.