Male fertility following spinal cord injury: An update

E. Ibrahim, C. M. Lynne, N. L. Brackett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Spinal cord injury (SCI) occurs most often in young men at the peak of their reproductive health. The majority of men with SCI cannot father children naturally. Three major complications contribute to infertility in men with SCI: erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory dysfunction, and abnormal semen quality. Erectile dysfunction can be managed by regimens available to the general population, including oral administration of phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors, intracavernosal injections, vacuum devices, and penile prostheses. Semen may be obtained from anejaculatory men with SCI via the medically assisted ejaculation methods of penile vibratory stimulation (PVS) or electroejaculation (EEJ). Sperm retrieval is also possible via prostate massage or surgical sperm retrieval. Most men with SCI have abnormal semen quality characterized by normal sperm concentrations but abnormally low sperm motility and viability. Accessory gland dysfunction has been proposed as the cause of these abnormalities. Leukocytospermia is evident in most SCI patients. Additionally, elevated concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines and elevated concentrations of inflammasome components are found in their semen. Neutralization of these constituents has resulted in improved sperm motility. There is a recent and alarming trend in the management of infertility in couples with SCI male partners. Although many men with SCI have sufficient motile sperm in their ejaculates for attempting intrauterine insemination (IUI) or even intravaginal insemination, surgical sperm retrieval is often introduced as the first and only sperm retrieval method for these couples. Surgical sperm retrieval commits the couple to the most advanced, expensive, and invasive method of assisted conception: in vitro fertilization with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (IVF/ICSI). Couples should be informed of all options, including semen retrieval by PVS or EEJ. Intravaginal insemination or IUI should be considered when indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-26
Number of pages14
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Assisted-reproductive technology
  • Ejaculation
  • Inflammasome
  • Male fertility
  • Male infertility
  • Paraplegia
  • Semen
  • Seminal plasma
  • Sperm
  • Sperm retrieval
  • Spinal cord injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Endocrinology
  • Urology


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