The Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank has provided therapeutic sperm banking services since 1980 – longer than any other facility in Ohio. The laboratory staff is trained in the latest, most effective freezing, storage and recovery techniques, and works under the direction of a sperm cryopreservation specialist. The highest standards are used in accurately labeling and identifying specimens. The Cleveland Clinic laboratory is CUA – certified and is also accredited by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the College of American Pathologists. Our sperm banking facilities are accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks.
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 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 yourself, 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.
Every specimen is carefully labeled and coded to ensure accurate identification and confidentiality. The Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory and Sperm Bank has a system of checks 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, patient identification 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 cryo vials. The freezing process begins right away, with the cryo vials 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 with The Cleveland Clinic Andrology Laboratory and Sperm Bank for an open-ended period of years, with an annual storage fee.
What tests are done on the sperm?
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 cryo vial 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 that need to be stored. Based on the results of these tests, the laboratory director can recommend the optimal number of samples, one should consider freezing in order to have the best chance of successful fertility treatment in the future. You also may 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. Parents have sometimes wished to create a grandchild with stored sperm, using a friend or a paid surrogate mother to carry the pregnancy. You may wish to have your samples destroyed in the event of your death, or you may wish to 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.
The Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank at Cleveland Clinic’s Glickman Urological & Kidney Institute provides specialized tests and services to evaluate male infertility and help couples who are attempting to conceive. Our laboratory offers referring physicians quantifiable results using the latest, most sophisticated technology available.
Further information about the Andrology Laboratory and Reproductive Tissue Bank's testing procedures and services is available for download .