Intracytoplasmic spern injection (ICSI), defined


Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is a fertility treatment that can help intended parents with male infertility issues achieve their dreams of starting a family when used alongside in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Whether your a single man, a heterosexual couple or part of the LGBTQ+ community, let’s get you up to speed on what ICSI is and who benefits from this. 

What is intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)?

ICSI is a treatment used to assist with sperm-related infertility issues, specifically when there is little sperm found in ejaculated semen. During the ICSI treatment, the male (either it be a sperm donor or intended parent) provides semen through ejaculation. This specific treatment is part of the IVF cycle’s fertilization stage and is performed after the egg retrieval procedure. 

egg and sperm fertilization with icsi

The intracytoplasmic sperm injection process, explained

Doctors perform the ICSI procedure with IVF, which involves injecting a sperm specimen directly into a mature egg. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a small glass tube (holding a single sperm) into one egg.

The doctor then examines the eggs the next day to check if it’s successfully fertilized. Fertilized eggs are left to mature for several days, at which point they become multicellular embryos. Doctors use these embryos for the embryo transfer procedure (inserting an embryo into a woman’s uterus).


Most embryo transfers are now FETs (or Frozen Embryo Transfers), meaning the embryos are re-frozen and then thawed before transfer. This allows flexibility on timeline, and depending on the patient, can lead to higher success rates than a ‘fresh embryo transfer’. Intended parents have the option to freeze and store any remaining high quality embryos for future use and sibling journeys.

Benefits of ICSI 

ICSI can help couples who have struggled with infertility, especially when infertility issues are male-related. The main benefit of ICSI during IVF is an enhanced fertilization rate, which can increase the number of fertilized eggs available for transfer or freezing. For couples struggling with male factor infertility, ICSI can also increase your chances for a successful fertilization under normal insemination (such as IUI). 

Here are some examples of male intended parents who would benefit from ICSI when used alongside IVF, and ones we consider:

  • Men with severely low sperm count
  • Men who have sperm motility issues.
  • Men with problems associated with sperm development.
  • Men with blockage that prevents sperm from being ejaculated (such as a vasectomy).
  • Those looking to maximize the number of high-quality embryos created from one egg retrieval.

Men who don’t have issues with sperm count, sperm development, or sperm motility may still be candidates for ICSI. Couples that have not been successful with previous IVF attempts may benefit from ICSI. Additionally, couples that wish to test for certain genetic problems often make good candidates for ICSI treatment.

Risks of ICSI

While ICSI can significantly increase your chances of a successful conception during IVF cycles, there are several risks intended parents must consider before choosing to undergo this procedure. 

The ICSI procedure has the possibility of damaging the eggs due to needle insertion, and the overall risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities is 0.08%, or eight per 1,000 births. This may also lead to an increased risk of miscarriage, heart problems, increased risk of behavior or learning disabilities, or even increased risk of infertility in your child during adulthood. 

Because of these risks, it’s important to select a fertility clinic that has little to no experience with these side effects and pick a doctor you trust. 

Intracytoplasmic sperm injection success rates

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not have metrics on the success rates of ICSI, other fertility clinics have reported fertilization rates of 70 to 80 percent of all eggs injected. 

For information about PFCLA’s success rates surrounding ICSI, reach out to our team and we’d be happy to discuss outcomes tailored to your unique situation. 

Learn more about your fertility treatment options

Infertility is complex and can be caused by a variety of factors including male or female partners. Fortunately, there are multiple fertility treatments available, in addition to intracytoplasmic sperm injection and in vitro fertilization, that can help couples realize their dream of parenthood. 

If you have questions about intracytoplasmic sperm injection or would like to learn more about other advanced fertility treatment options, get in touch with us. Our staff is happy to address any concerns or questions you may have about starting your journey to parenthood.

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Note: This is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Information provided is for general educational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. Speak to your doctor directly with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any information contained herein does not replace any care plan as determined by a physician. 

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