Fertility Programs and Services
Fertility Treatment for Men with Spine and
Spinal Cord Injuries
The spinal cord may become impaired as the result of a motor vehicle or other accident, trauma or medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy or other conditions that affect that neurologic system.
Men with spinal cord injuries still produce sperm in their testicles. But their injury can prevent them from being able to have an erection or being able to ejaculate.
An injury to the lower spine may affect a man’s ability to have an erection. If the upper spine is injured, however, a man may still be able to have an erection and have sexual intercourse. But even though men with a spinal cord injury can have an erection, the percentage who can successfully ejaculate is low. And although erection is not necessary for ejaculation to occur, without ejaculation, achieving pregnancy through unassisted means is not possible.
There is HopeA spinal cord injury does not prevent a man from becoming a father. Today, it is very possible for a man with a spinal cord injury to father a child. Many new technologies are available to assist men.
Treatment OptionsMany factors will influence the success of treatment for men with spinal cord injury. At the Reproductive Medicine Center, we discuss each man’s goals as well as the needs of the couple when determining the appropriate treatment.
For men who are unable to ejaculate, the following outpatient procedures may be used to collect sperm:
- Electro-ejaculation — using a special machine, an electrical probe is inserted into the rectum; a current generated by the machine stimulates the nerves and produces contraction of the pelvic muscles, resulting in ejaculation
- Vibratory stimulation — a mechanical vibrator is placed on top of or under the tip of the penis and set to vibrate; the vibration travels along the sensory nerves to the spinal cord and may induce a reflex ejaculation; the results depend on the level of the spinal cord injury; this procedure may be done at home following an initial procedure at the clinic
- Vasal aspiration — a procedure in which immature sperm are surgically removed through an incision in the scrotum
Following the successful collection of sperm from any of these procedures, the sperm may then be used in various assisted reproductive treatments, such as in vitro fertilization, intravaginal insemination or intrauterine insemination, to achieve fertilization and pregnancy. Another assisted fertilization procedure, intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), involves injecting a single sperm directly into an egg.
Author: Marla Fraunfelder
Last Review Date: June 27, 2011
Online Editor(s): Kimberly Cole