Technique Could Preserve Fertility for Wounded Soldiers

Digital illustration of sperm in colour backgroundTUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Soldiers who suffer lower-body injuries on the battlefield may benefit from a technique to preserve their fertility, a small study suggests.

The number of soldiers with lower-body wounds caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has been increasing, the researchers said. Such blasts may result in ejaculatory duct obstructions that lead to the inability to ejaculate.

Dr. Mae Wu Healy and colleagues from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., suggested that seminal vesicle sperm aspiration, or SVSA, could help these wounded soldiers retain the ability to have children.

“SVSA is a reasonable option to retrieve sperm in wounded warriors or in trauma patients with pelvic or perineal injuries,” said Dr. Rebecca Sokol, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

“Tragically, an increasing number of our wounded service members have experienced these types of trauma. It is encouraging to know this sperm retrieval process is being offered to this patient population and holds promise for them,” Sokol said in an association news release.

SVSA involves the retrieval of viable sperm, which are then frozen and stored for later use.

Six patients who sustained lower body IED injuries, including their pelvis and genitals, had sperm recovery between five and 12 days after their injury. Their sperm was examined, washed and frozen.

Two of the men had in vitro fertilization (IVF) with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) cycles performed using their frozen-thawed sperm. During this procedure, a single sperm is introduced directly into an egg to initiate the fertilization process.

The researchers examined three IVF cycles using sperm recovered through SVSA. One couple underwent single cycle of IVF, and had five of 13 mature eggs fertilized. One embryo was transferred with a negative pregnancy test.

The other couple had four of nine eggs fertilized in their first cycle. One embryo was transferred, but the pregnancy test was negative. In the couple’s second IVF cycle, eight of 17 eggs were fertilized, and two embryos were frozen.

The findings were presented on Monday at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine annual meeting in Baltimore. The research was published simultaneously in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

During 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 191,000 assisted reproductive technology (including IVF) cycles were performed in the United States. Those procedures resulted in almost 68,000 babies being born, the CDC said.

More information

The American Urological Association provides more information on sperm retrieval.