ICSI - STUDIES WILL WATCH HEALTH OF CHILDREN FOR MANY YEARS - BUT RESULTS SO FAR REASSURING

Embargo: 13.00 hrs CET Monday 28 June 1999

Technique brings hope to many thousands worldwide

Ongoing studies on the health of children born by the controversial technique known as ICSI are reassuring, a news conference at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology heard today

. (Monday 28 June) Thousands of children worldwide have been born since the first ICSI baby in 1992 and there are no more congenital malformations among these children than among any others born after more conventional IVF techniques or natural conception, according to Professor Andre Van Steirteghem, head of the team at the Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Brussels whose research produced the first ICSI birth.

ICSI involves injecting a single sperm direct into a woman's egg and is used when a man has major fertility problems.* There have been concerns that the technique could lead to abnormalities because of its nature and the quality of sperm that might be used. But ICSI has allowed even severely infertile men to father children. Before its advent IVF treatment where the man was infertile had to use donor sperm.

Prof Van Steirtegham said: "The results of ICSI are similar to the results of conventional IVF in patients with tubal infertility and normal semen parameters. A critical issue remains the health of the children born after ICSI. Ongoing follow-up studies of the pregnancies and the children indicate that there are no more major congenital malformations in these children than in those born after conventional IVF or after natural conception."

He said there was a slight increase in some chromosomal abnormalities in a series of 1,000 prenatal tests and efforts should also be made to reduce the number of twin and triplet pregnancies after ICSI, just as in conventional IVF. But ongoing studies looking at the development of ICSI children have so far been reassuring.

"For many years IVF has given women the chance to have their own child. ICSI is now giving men the opportunity to have their own child. While it is right that we should carefully monitor these children, it also must be acknowledged that the technique has revolutionised fertility treatment and brought the joy of a family to many thousands of couples."

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Note: *ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). First introduced in 1991 to alleviate severe male infertility which could not be treated by conventional IVF techniques. The single sperm microinjection in the egg is now applied worldwide. It can be used with sperm from the semen, the epididymis (tube that carries sperm out of the testis) and testis. ICSI can now be applied in couples where the man has very little sperm in the semen, no sperm in the semen due to an obstruction (sperm from the epididymis or testis can then be used), and in about half of the couples where spermatogenesis (sperm formation) in the testis is impaired.

Further information: Margaret Willson (media information officer)

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