Role of imaging in the evaluation of male infertility

Pardeep K. Mittal, Brent Little, Peter A. Harri, Frank H. Miller, Lauren F. Alexander, Bobby Kalb, Juan C. Camacho, Viraj Master, Matthew Hartman, Courtney C. Moreno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Infertility is defined herein as the inability to achieve pregnancy after frequently engaging in unprotected sexual intercourse for 1 year. Among infertile couples, the cause of infertility involves the male partner in approximately 50% of cases. Male infertility is usually caused by conditions affecting sperm production, sperm function, or both, or blockages that prevent the delivery of sperm. Chronic health problems, injuries, lifestyle choices, anatomic problems, hormonal imbalances, and genetic defects can have a role in male infertility. The diagnostic workup of male infertility should include a thorough medical and reproductive history, physical examination, and semen analysis, followed by imaging. The main role of imaging is identification of the causes of infertility, such as congenital anomalies and disorders that obstruct sperm transport and may be correctable. Scrotal ultrasonography is the most common initially performed noninvasive examination used to image the male reproductive system, including the testes and extratesticular structures such as the epididymis. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging is another noninvasive imaging modality used in the pelvis to evaluate possible obstructive lesions involving the ductal system. MR imaging of the brain is extremely useful for evaluating relevant neurologic abnormalities, such as pituitary gland disorders, that are suspected on the basis of hormone analysis results. Invasive techniques are usually reserved for therapeutic interventions in patients with known abnormalities. In this article, the causes and imaging findings of obstructive and nonobstructive azoospermia are discussed. In addition to detecting treatable conditions that are related to male infertility, identifying the life-threatening entities associated with infertility and the genetic conditions that could be transmitted to offspring—especially in patients who undergo assisted reproduction—is critical.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)837-854
Number of pages18
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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