Britain’s leading experts in fertility treatment have condemned “opportunistic” clinics of imposing to desperate couples the technique called intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), which actually negatively affects parenthood chances when is not needed.
ICSI was developed nearly 30 years ago. The method involves injecting a single sperm cell into an individual egg, rather than simply mixing sperm and eggs in a dish, as happens in standard IVF. It was created to help men with low sperm count or damage that prevents them fertilizing an egg when mixed in a dish in standard IVF.
On average, this extra option costs 1000 British pounds, which is roughly 30% of the overall IVF treatment costs. Some fertility clinics in the UK and abroad decided to promote this expensive add-on as a way to improve pregnancy success rates even if the male partner has no issues with sperm count or mobility.
Researchers from the Centre for Infertility and Human Reproduction in Barcelona examined 479 cycles of normal IVF and 477 of cycles performed with ICSI in couples with healthy male sperm and no previous failed fertility treatment. They found that the live birth rate for standard IVF was 36.2 per cent, compared to just 23.4 per cent among the ICSI patients.
These calls were backed up by the chair of the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE), whose annual conference the findings were presented at: “Some unscrupulous doctors see this as an income generator and it has compromised the integrity of reproductive medicine for a long time. You are dealing with a very susceptible group with infertility. They’re exhausted avenues of success, and their confidence is poor – they are willing to spend a lot of money,” said Dr Roy Farquharson.
Roughly a third of couples are infertile due to male-factor infertility, a third due to female-factor and a third due to combination. It means that ICSI may be appropriate in up to half of cases. What is worrisome is that there are clinics in the UK where all they do is 90 or 100 per cent ICSI, and it’s the standard.
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Based on the article by Independent