Most abnormalities in ICSI babies linked to multiple or premature births
Fears that the controversial fertility treatment known as ICSI could cause a high level of abnormalities among babies are largely unfounded, according to major new research by Swedish fertility experts, published today (Wednesday 29 March) in the journal Human Reproduction.*
A study of over a thousand babies born after ICSI did show that there was an increased risk of abnormalities compared with babies born without the use of any fertility treatments, but that this was mainly due to conditions generally associated with multiple or premature births rather than the ICSI technique itself. More than a third of the ICSI babies in the study were multiple births. However, the researchers did identify one condition that appeared to be directly associated with ICSI -- hypospadias -- a malformation of the penis.**
ICSI involves injecting a single sperm directly into a woman's egg and has been used since 1991 for men with severe fertility problems. There have been concerns that the technique could lead to abnormalities because of its nature and the quality of the sperm. Studies to date have shown conflicting results.
Using data from the Swedish Medical Birth Registry and the Registry of Congenital Malformations, the researchers compared the rate of abnormalities recorded among ICSI babies with the rate among all Swedish births and babies born by conventional IVF. Among the ICSI babies the risk of abnormalities was 75% higher than among the general population with 87 cases of some sort of malformation. Nearly half the cases involved only minor conditions.
Dr Ulla-Britt Wennerholm, senior registrar at Gteborg's Sahlgrenska University Hospital, said: "Although we found an excess risk among ICSI babies compared with babies born without fertility treatment, most of this was due to conditions associated with multiple and premature b
Contact: Margaret Willson
European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology