How is a surgical sperm retrieval done?

There are three different methods to surgically retrieve sperm:

  • PESA is the least invasive method and involves inserting a fine needle into the epididymis – this is the sac lying in the scrotum just above the testes where sperm are stored before ejaculation. PESA is particularly suitable for men who have had a vasectomy, or who were born without a vas deferens (the tube that transports sperm from the testes to the penis)
  • TESA involves passing the needle directly into the testis to remove a microscopic core of tissue
  • TESE involves making a small cut in the skin of the scrotum to directly remove (biopsy) several small sections of testicular tissue

As the surgeon gets samples of tissue, these samples are passed immediately to the IVF laboratory where a scientist checks under a microscope to see if sperm have been found and if the sperm are suitable for treatment.  Once enough sperm are identified, the procedure is finished. 

If sperm are found, using the surgical sperm retrieval procedure, they are usually frozen and stored for your future use. To understand more about sperm freezing, please ask clinic staff for the patient information sheet on Sperm Freezing (LC127).