Who might need surgical sperm retrieval?

About one man in a hundred produces no sperm in his semen – a condition known as azoospermia. For some of these men it may be possible to surgically retrieve sufficient sperm directly from the testes. These sperm can then be used with IVF and ICSI procedures to create a pregnancy. Surgical sperm retrieval is also used in men who cannot ejaculate, for example after a spinal cord injury.

Azoospermia (no sperm in the ejaculate) can occur for many reasons and may be due to:

  • A previous illness (eg mumps in adolescence)
  • trauma or injury to his groin
  • a genetic condition
  • ejaculation going backwards into the bladder (retrograde ejaculation), which can happen after prostate procedures and for other reasons
  • cancer treatments
  • vasectomy (the male sterilisation operation)