This means that there is a blockage somewhere in the ducts that are supposed to carry sperm from the testicle. This can either be acquired, such as after a vasectomy, or congenital. Generally, these men have normal sperm production but the sperm flow is blocked. Because the sperm production is normal, sperm can be reliably obtained simply by passing a tiny needle into the epididymis (percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration or PESA) or testicle (testicular sperm aspiration or TESA) with local anesthesia or sedation. If this is not successful, a sliver of the interior portion of the testicle can be removed. This is called testicular sperm extraction or TESE. Sperm are retrieved in the vast majority of these patients.
This means that there are no sperm in the ejaculate because sperm production is dramatically reduced. Still, many of these men will have areas of the testicles that are producing sperm and if these areas can be identified, the sperm can be used for IVF with ICSI. Several techniques are used to obtain sperm in this setting. The oldest technique is testicular biopsy of multiple areas of the testicles. A newer technique, microdissection testicular sperm extraction (micro-TESE), involves the dissection of the testicle using an operating microscope. The areas of the testicle which are more likely to be making sperm are identified and removed. A third technique, testicular mapping, involves tiny needle biopsies of the testicles and examination of the fluid so that a biopsy can be targeted to the area most likely to contain sperm. Depending upon the technique used and the specifics of the individual involved, sperm may be retrieved in up to 70% of these patients.
In conclusion, with the advent of ICSI and newer testicular sperm acquisition techniques, rapid advances have occurred in the treatment of male factor fertility disorders. The testicle has now become an accessible reservoir for the acquisition of sperm that can be used to fertilize the wife’s eggs and attain clinical pregnancies.