Absence of sperm in semen is known as azoospermia. It is a common disorder of male population and falls into two categories: obstructive and non-obstructive azoospermia. Men suffering from obstructive azoospermia can ejaculate but their semen does not contain sperm. Sperm are produced in the testicles but they are not ejaculated due to a physical obstruction of the genital tracts.
Men suffering from non-obstructive azoospermia do not produce any sperm. Minimal or low sperm production is related to testicular failure, a condition which is either idiopathic or is caused by other factors, such as cryptorchidism, various inflammations, chemotherapy and chromosome abnormalities.
In cases of azoospermia, collection of sperm is performed through microsurgical procedures or a testicular biopsy. Surgical procedure is usually performed after an unsuccessful attempt of electroejaculation. The sperm which is collected is either analysed in order to be used in microfertilisation or it undergoes cryopreseervation in order to be used in IVF treatment in the future.
A testicular biopsy is quite painful and is performed under general anaesthesia. During a testicular biopsy a small sample of tissue is removed from one or both testicles and is analysed in order to detect spermatozoa. This procedure is performed either on the day of egg retrieval or a few days earlier. In the second case sperm is frozen so that it can be used on the day of egg retrieval.
If biopsy results are negative, couples could consider sperm from a third party as an alternative.