Intra- and inter-laboratory variability in the assessment of sperm morphology by strict criteria: Impact of semen preparation, staining techniques and manual versus computerized analysis

Barroso G. ; Mercan R. ; Ozgur K. ; Morshedi M. ; Kolm P. ; Coetzee K. ; Kruger T. ; Oehninger S. (1999)


We designed prospective studies to compare manual and computerized analysis of sperm morphology by strict criteria using different semen processing and staining techniques. A total of 54 semen samples were studied; slides were prepared from each subject from liquefied semen and after washing, and stained with Diff-Quik® or Papanicolaou. An intra-laboratory, blind assessment was performed manually (two observers) and using a computerized analyser (two readings). This demonstrated a very good correlation between manual analysis of liquefied and washed samples with both staining techniques [intraclass coefficient (ICC) = 0.93 and 0.83]. Greater agreement was observed between computerized readings (washed samples) of Diff-Quik® (ICC = 0.93) than of Papanicolaou-stained slides (ICC = 0.66). An excellent intra-laboratory correlation was observed for within-computer readings (ICC = 0.93). There was moderate agreement between inter-laboratory computer readings (two centres, ICC = 0.72). Although there was lower inter-laboratory agreement for manual and manual versus computer readings, overall results of all manual and computer analyses showed good agreement (ICC = 0.73). Diff-Quik® staining is reliable for both manual (liquefied) and computer (washed) analysis of strict sperm morphology. Intra- and inter-computer analyses using this method reached satisfactory levels of agreement. There is still high inter-laboratory variability for the manual method.

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