Sperm Retrieval

Collecting sperm for infertility diagnosis and treatment

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: December 12, 2011

Sperm Retrieval Defined

To diagnose the causes of infertility and to begin infertility treatments, a sample of sperm must be provided to allow doctors to make a semen analysis. Most men have enough sperm in their semen for male infertility testing. However, some men do not ejaculate enough or any sperm in their semen. If natural ejaculation of sperm is not possible, infertility specialists use three varying methods to retrieve sperm for infertility tests and treatments.

Sperm Retrieval Procedures

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspifertiration (PESA)

The least invasive of sperm retrieval methods, PESA is used if the semen itself does not contain any sperm (non-obstructive azoospermia). It is a quick procedure that is generally painless and can be performed with local anesthetic. PESA involves sperm cells being removed via a long needle inserted through the scrotum.

Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA)

The most common form of sperm retrieval is used for males who have a blockage that prevents the sperm moving into the testis and being ejaculated. TESA is a minimally invasive procedure that is performed under general anesthetic. Testicular tissue is removed using a long needle and specialists extract the sperm from this tissue.

Microepididymal Sperm Aspiration (MESA)

Using microsurgery technology, specialists extract fluid from the epididymal tube which connects to the testis.  Sperm is then extracted from this fluid. The procedure involves a small incision in the scrotum and is performed under general anesthetic.


The method of sperm retrieval used depends on the male's condition and his male infertility factor

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA)

Percutaneous Epididymal Sperm Aspiration (PESA) is a method of sperm retrieval that uses a needle to remove a small amount of sperm. 

Testicular Sperm Aspiration (TESA)

Testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) is a method of sperm retrieval usually used for the purposes of IVF with ICSI. TESA is a non-invasive procedure that enables men to provide their own sperm for fertilization when sperm does not appear in his ejaculate. 

Microdissection TESE

Microdissection TESE is a surgical method of sperm retrieval for men with male infertility factors. Infertility specialists make a small incision in collect a very small sample of tissue from the testes that yields a high concentration of sperm.

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