Freezing and storing sperm samples
The ability to father a child / the male fertility may be permanently affected by different treatments for severe illnesses. Therefore it is sometimes important to make provisions, so that you can have a child later. Freezing (cryopreservation) of a semen sample before a planned surgery is performed, ensures the possibility to fulfill your wish to have a child. Adult men and adolescents from the time they can ejaculate can and should make use of this opportunity. Testicular tissue can also be frozen permanently (TESE). If no sperm can be detected in the ejaculate, the sperm from this tissue can be used for a fertility treatment at a later time.
Information on cryopreservation
What is cryopreservation?
In this procedure, semen samples are stored in a liquid nitrogen depot at a temperature of -196 °C. Strict security precautions have to be met in the storage. Uniqueness of the samples is guaranteed.
For how long can sperm be frozen?
Frozen sperm samples last almost for an indefinite period of time. Tests have shown that storage times of up to 30 years have no impact on the semen quality.
Are there any genetic risks in conceiving a child with frozen sperm?
So far, there have been no suggestions that the use of cryopreserved sperm increases the genetic risk of having a disabled child. The risks are similar to those in natural conception.
What costs cryopreservation of sperm or testicular tissue?
Unfortunately, the health insurances usually do not cover the costs for cryopreservation. The necessary preliminary investigations and the cryopreservation itself costs app. 300 to 500 Euros onetime. The storage at our clinic costs 22.50 Euros per month.
How is cryopreservation performed?
Usually you get an appointment within a few days. We begin with serological tests for infection (blood sample). You will then have to provide a semen sample for the subsequent cryopreservation of the ejaculate. We have adequate rooms for collecting the sample. You may also bring the sample from your home, but you will need a special sample container. The quality of the semen sample will be examined and then we add an antifreeze protein and freeze the sample. If no sperm can be found in the ejaculate, it may be possible to retrieve tissue directly from the testicles (TESE) in a minor outpatient surgery, which can be performed in our clinic. The tissue will be examined for the presence of semen and cryopreserved immediately after the surgery.
Diseases and treatments that may permanently affect fertility:
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- almost all tumour diseases (e.g. leukaemia, Hodgkin's disease, osteosarcoma, testicular tumours, etc.)
Immunosuppression for autoimmune diseases
- e.g. rheumatism
- inflammatory bowel diseases
- severe diseases of the skin
- multiple sclerosis
Immunosuppression after transplantation
- of e.g. organs, bone marrow, stem cells
- e.g. testicle removal due to malignancy or lymph node dissection in the abdominal cavity behind the peritoneum (retroperitoneal space) with the risk of retrograde ejaculation at a later time
- surgery in the lesser pelvis (e.g. radical prostatectomy, cystectomy, colorectal surgery, aortic surgery)
- vasoresection, vasectomy
Occlusion of the vas deferens
- congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens (CBAVD), e.g. associated with a disposition to cystic fibrosis (CFTR mutation)
In some cases, we can perform the cryopreservation of semen samples at short notice (usually within one day). However, an in-depth medical consultation has to follow cryopreservation (usually also after the pending primary treatment). At all events, you will be told immediately after the cryogenic storage whether enough sperm cells for a possible later fertility treatment could be collected.