A varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of the veins inside the scrotum, much like a varicose vein. The veins can become tangled and can cause pain, although often men with varicoceles are unaware of the problem. Varicoceles are fairly common, affecting around 15% of men. Although for some men varicoceles resolve themselves and cause no real problems, they can be a cause of male infertility and for that reason many men decide to have them treated.
There are three main options to treat varicoceles: open surgery, laparoscopy and embolisation.
In open surgery, an incision is made in either the scrotum or the groin, and the tissues beneath are separated until the problematic veins are revealed. The veins will then be tied, so that blood flow is redirected to other, normally functioning, veins. The procedure is usually performed as a day case, and either general or local anaesthetic may be used.
In laparoscopic varicocele treatment, the incision is made in the abdomen and a tiny instrument is passed through the incision down into the scrotum in order to find and repair the varicocele. Laparoscopic surgery is always performed under a general anaesthetic.
Embolisation is generally performed using either local anaesthesia or twilight sedation, where the patient is in a semi-conscious state. A tube is inserted through an incision in the groin, or sometimes in the neck, and the surgeon releases small metal coils into the tube, which block the flow of blood to the enlarged veins, repairing the varicocele.
Varicoceles can and do resolve by themselves and, for some men, they never cause a problem. However, varicoceles can be a cause of male infertility, as it is believed that they reduce the body’s ability to keep the testicles at a lower temperature than the rest of the body, which in turn affects the testicles’ ability to function normally.
If you are suffering from male infertility and have been diagnosed with a varicocele, it cannot be definitively stated that having the varicocele repaired will increase your fertility, but studies show that varicocele treatment can significantly elevate sperm quality.
We know that infertility can be very distressing, whatever your gender, and we try to be realistic at all times when discussing the benefits of any particular treatment. Should you decide to undergo varicocele treatment with us, you would first attend an in-depth consultation with one of our specialists, who would explain the pros and cons of all the treatment options and answer any queries or concerns you may have.
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