Semen Quality and Prediction of IUI Success in Male Subfertility: A Systematic Review

Reprod Biomed Online. 2014 Mar;28(3):300-9. doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2013.10.023. Epub 2013 Nov 15.

Abstract

Many variables may influence success rates after intrauterine insemination (IUI), including sperm quality in the native and washed semen sample. A literature search was performed to investigate the threshold levels of sperm parameters above which IUI pregnancy outcome is significantly improved and/or the cut-off values reaching substantial discriminative performance in an IUI programme. A search of MEDLINE, EMBASE and Cochrane Library revealed a total of 983 papers. Only 55 studies (5.6%) fulfilled the inclusion criteria and these papers were analysed. Sperm parameters most frequently examined were: (i) inseminating motile count after washing: cut-off value between 0.8 and 5 million; (ii) sperm morphology using strict criteria: cut-off value ⩾5% normal morphology; (iii) total motile sperm count in the native sperm sample: cut-off value of 5-10 million; and (iv) total motility in the native sperm sample: threshold value of 30%. The results indicate a lack of prospective studies, a lack of standardization in semen testing methodology and a huge heterogeneity of patient groups and IUI treatment strategies. More prospective cohort trials and prospective randomized trials investigating the predictive value of semen parameters on IUI outcome are urgently needed. It is generally believed that intrauterine insemination (IUI) with homologous semen should be a first-choice treatment to more invasive and expensive techniques of assisted reproduction in cases of cervical, unexplained and moderate male factor subfertility. The rationale for the use of artificial insemination is to increase gamete density at the site of fertilization. Scientific validation of this strategy is difficult because literature is rather confusing and inconclusive. Many variables may influence success rates after IUI treatment procedures. It seems logical that sperm quality has to be one of the main determinants to predict IUI success. Clinical practice would benefit from the establishment of threshold levels for sperm parameters above which IUI pregnancy outcome is significantly improved and below which a successful outcome is unlikely. We performed a literature search to investigate if such threshold levels are known. Most striking were the lack of standardization in semen-testing methodology and the huge heterogeneity of patient groups and IUI treatment strategies. The four sperm parameters most frequently examined were: (i) inseminating motile count after washing: cut-off value between 0.8 and 5 million; (ii) sperm morphology using strict criteria: cut-off value >4% normal morphology; (iii) total motile sperm count in native sperm sample: cut-off value of 5-10 million; and (iv) total motility in native sperm sample: threshold value of 30%. This review identified an urgent need for more and better prospective cohort trials investigating the predictive value of semen parameters on IUI pregnancy rate.

Keywords: assisted reproduction; intrauterine insemination; predictive value; pregnancy rate; semen; sperm quality.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insemination, Artificial
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Semen Analysis*