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How are specimens collected?

Semen specimens are collected on-site at the Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory in a private collection room. We recommend collecting the sample at the laboratory, because the sample's freshness affects the fertility. Within minutes after ejaculation, the number of living sperm cells and their activity begin to drop off rapidly. You will be given a sterile collection cup for your specimen. Manual stimulation to orgasm, either by you, or with your wife or significant other, is the only recommended method. Using oral sex or intercourse to ejaculate could contaminate the semen with bacteria.


What happens after the specimen is collected?

SpermBanking

Every specimen is carefully labeled and coded to ensure accurate identification and confidentiality. The Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank has a system of checks and procedures to ensure that specimens are properly identified at the time of storage, during storage and at the time of release.

Each specimen is marked with your name, Cleveland Clinic number, an internal control number and the date. Each donor's complete record is kept in the Andrology Laboratory. As an additional safety measure, your photograph is taken at your first visit and becomes part of your permanent file for identification purposes.

A small part of the sample is drawn off for testing. The rest of the specimen is divided into small amounts and placed with a cryopreservative (a chemical that helps protect sperm during the freezing process) in containers called cryovials. The freezing process begins right away, with the cryovials being placed in a freezer for a few minutes at a temperature below freezing. This step avoids killing sperm from a too rapid drop in temperature. Specimens are then put into extremely cold liquid nitrogen vapor for two hours. Finally, they are lowered into a storage tank containing liquid nitrogen for permanent storage.

Semen may be stored indefinitely at the final temperature of -196 °C. A man may store his sperm at the Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank for an open ended period of years, with an annual storage fee.


What tests are done on the sperm?

Lab Test

Every time you store a semen sample, a small portion is separated out before freezing for testing by a specially trained laboratory technologist. A complete, computerized semen analysis is performed. This analysis will reveal :

  • the total number of sperm present in the sample
  • the total number of live sperm
  • the percentage and number of sperm that are moving (motility)

Between 24 and 48 hours after the samples are frozen, one cryovial is thawed and the specimen is analyzed to measure the percentage of sperm that recover from freezing. The better the semen quality in general, and the higher the recovery rate after thawing, the fewer specimens need to be stored. Based on the results of these tests, the laboratory director can recommend the optimal number of samples you should consider freezing in order to have the best chance of successful fertility treatment in the future. You may also receive feedback on whether artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization would be your most viable treatment option.


What would happen to stored samples after my death?

Whenever a man banks sperm, we advise him to obtain a court order that would authorize a spouse or family member to withdraw any samples remaining in storage in our sperm bank after his death. Some deceased men's wives or fiancées have wanted to use stored sperm to create offspring with fertility treatment. You may wish to have your samples destroyed in the event of your death, or you may give a specific person the legal right to make decisions about your samples in that situation. We will only release your samples to another sperm bank. Any further use of them would then be under the control of the person you had legally appointed.


How would I withdraw my sample?

When you are ready to use stored sperm for infertility treatment, you must notify our laboratory at least four weeks in advance. You or your legally appointed executor must also complete a release form. Specimens can be shipped to any physician or laboratory that can store them in liquid nitrogen until thawing is required. The Cleveland Clinic will arrange shipping, but you are responsible for a withdrawal fee for each sample, as well as any shipping costs.


Cost of banking sperm

The charge for cryopreserving a single ejaculate is typically about $643. The storage fee for each specimen is $100 per year. You might estimate that your costs over five years would total about $1,143 for storage of one semen specimen. Many private insurance carriers cover part or all of the costs of banking sperm, especially before cancer treatment.


What should I bring to my first visit?

At your first visit, you will be asked to complete a questionnaire about your diagnosis and planned treatment and a contract and other legal forms related to sperm banking. You will be informed by the technologist making the appointment of any documents or records you need to bring in order to complete these forms.


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Last Update : February 03, 2009
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Center for Reproductive Medicine
The Cleveland Clinic
9500 Euclid Avenue, Desk A19
Cleveland OH 44195
U.S.A.
CRM@ccf.org