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Tuesday, May 4, 1999 Published at 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK


Twins born after detached testicle operation

ICSI is a controversial IVF treatment

by Andrew Tomlinson, the BBC's health correspondent in the Midlands

A woman has given birth to twins using sperm from a testicle that had been removed from her husband during surgery.

She drove forty miles through the Midlands, carrying the organ in a flask to keep it warm.

The woman waited in an operating theatre at the North Staffordshire Hospital as her husband underwent surgery for testicular cancer.

Cancer nurse

Once his only remaining testicle had been removed, it was placed in a flask and she drove it forty miles down the M6 to Midland Fertililty Services' clinic in Aldridge where doctors extracted sperm from the disembodied testicle and froze it.

The operation happened last year and now the woman has given birth to twins.

The clinic is delighted. It had been contacted by the father's cancer nurse who said the couple were desperate to start a family.

All involved had to act very quickly.

Within 24 hours of speaking to the nurse, fertility specialists were performing the operation to extract sperm.

The clinic's medical director Peter Bromwich said he was not aware of any similar operations being done elsewhere in the UK.

"It is fairly unusual," he said. "Not every clinic in the UK can do ICSI [intracytoplasmic sperm injection - a type of IVF treatment which involves injecting sperm directly into a woman's egg] and not everyone can freeze testicular tissue."

"We have expertise in developing a technique for freezing testicular tissue."

Fertility drugs

The operation involved cutting a bit of tissue out, hunting through the 'sperm factory' and pulling out the sperm.

They were then frozen and stored until the woman had produced lots of eggs.

She was given fertility drugs to make her ovulate.

Dr Bromwich said freezing sperm used to be a fairly complex procedure, but had become more straightforward in recent years.

Using frozen sperm makes the operation more difficult than injecting fresh sperm into the egg.

Dr Bromwich said around one in three women who undergo ICSI become pregnant.

Women who undergo IVF are also much more likely to have multiple births than those who conceive naturally.

There has been much controversy around ICSI with some doctors arguing that it can pass on genetic defects.

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