Surgery or embolization for varicoceles in subfertile men

Maxima Medical Centre, De Run 4600, Veldhoven, Netherlands, 5504 DB.
Cochrane database of systematic reviews (Online) (Impact Factor: 6.03). 10/2012; 10(10):CD000479. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000479.pub5
Source: PubMed


Varicocele is a dilatation (enlargement) of the veins along the spermatic cord (the cord suspending the testis) in the scrotum. Dilatation occurs when valves within the veins along the spermatic cord fail and allow retrograde blood flow, causing a backup of blood. The mechanisms by which varicocele might affect fertility have not yet been explained, and neither have the mechanisms by which surgical treatment of the varicocele might restore fertility. This review analysed 10 studies (894 participants) and found evidence (combined odds ratio was 1.47 (95% CI 1.05 to 2.05) to suggest an increase in pregnancy rates after varicocele treatment compared to no treatment in subfertile couples, in whom, apart from poor sperm quality, varicocele in the man was the only abnormal finding. This means that 17 men would need to be treated to achieve one additional pregnancy. However, findings were inconclusive as the quality of the available evidence was very low and more research is needed with live birth or pregnancy rate as the primary outcome.

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Available from: Johannes Evers, Nov 25, 2014
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    • "They showed consistently that there is no beneficial effect of varicocele treatment on a couple's chance of conception [9]. A more recent meta-analysis published in 2012 suggested that varicocele repair in men from couples with otherwise unexplained subfertility may improve pregnancy outcome, although this finding is inconclusive owing to the low quality of the available data [10]. The aforementioned meta-analyses included data from surgical repair and percutaneous embolization. "
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    ABSTRACT: To elucidate the impact of surgical varicocele repair on the pregnancy rate through new meta-analyses of randomized clinical trials that compared surgical varicocele repair and observation. The PubMed and Embase online databases were searched for studies released before December 2012. References were manually reviewed, and two researchers independently extracted the data. To assess the quality of the studies, the Cochrane risk of bias as a quality assessment tool for randomized controlled trials was applied. Seven randomized clinical trials were included in our meta-analyses, all of which compared pregnancy outcomes between surgical varicocele repair and control. There were differences in enrollment criteria among the studies. Four studies included patients with clinical varicocele, but three studies enrolled patients with subclinical varicocele. Meanwhile, four trials enrolled patients with impaired semen quality only, but the other three trials did not. In a meta-analysis of all seven trials, a forest plot using the random-effects model showed an odds ratio (OR) of 1.90 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.77 to 4.66; p=0.1621). However, for subanalysis of three studies that included patients with clinical varicocele and abnormal semen parameters, the fixed-effects pooled OR was significant (OR, 4.15; 95% CI, 2.31 to 7.45; p<0.001), favoring varicocelectomy. Varicocelectomy for male subfertility is proven effective in men with clinical varicocele and impaired semen quality. Therefore, surgical repair should be offered as the first-line treatment of clinical varicocele in subfertile men.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2013 · Korean journal of urology
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    • "Surgical correction resulted in an improvement of semen parameters (Zampieri et al., 2007). Varicocoele repair in subfertile couples is effective, at least in a subgroup of men with a clinical varicocoele, oligozoospermia and otherwise unexplained infertility (Baazeem et al., 2011; Kroese et al., 2012). "

    Preview · Article · Sep 2013 · Andrology
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    • "(Evers and Collins, 2003). This concept is supported further by repeated comprehensive analysis in Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews 2004 (Evers and Collins, 2004) where the reviewers concluded from the results of eight controlled prospective randomized studies 'indicating no benefit of varicocele treatment over expectant management in subfertile couples in whom varicocele in the man is the only abnormal finding'. These results contradict our findings, but it is not surprising since, according to usual practice, the vast majority of patients in these studies were treated partially, on the left side only. "
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    ABSTRACT: Varicocele is a bilateral vascular disease, involving a network of collaterals and small, retroperitoneal bypasses. The right and the left testicular venous drainage systems are complex and not identical to each other. It was considered a predominantly unilateral (left-sided) disease. Its pathophysiology has not been clearly delineated and the treatments offered do not seem to be effective. The medical literature is replete with articles demonstrating inconsistent and even contradictory results which have led clinicians to dissociate varicocele from male infertility. Since male fertility is preserved with only one healthy testis, male infertility perforce represents bilateral testicular dysfunction. This poses an enigma to clinicians: How can left-sided varicocele causes bilateral testicular dysfunction? We investigated the internal spermatic veins by venography to understand testicular damage due to varicocele. A total of 740 venographies of the internal spermatic veins (ISVs) were performed, with sclerotherapy of the ISV as treatment for varicocele. Epon-embedded testicular tissue sections were used to identify blood stagnation in the testis. Varicocele is predominantly a bilateral disease in 84% of cases, associated with collaterals and retroperitoneal venous bypasses in 70% in the left side and 75% in the right side. Histopathology demonstrate stagnation in the testicular microcirculation and hypoxic-ischaemic degenerative changes in all cells' types in the sperms' production site. Based on our findings (i) varicocele is a bilateral disease; (ii) the disease is expressed earlier in the left side and is more intense because the blood column is longer in the left side than the right; (iii) partial treatment to the left side only and ignoring bypasses is not adequate to correct the problem; (iv) hypoxia leading to ischaemic damage to both testes is the effect of varicocele due to hydrostatic pressures in the impaired venous drainage system, which exceeds the pressures in the testicular arterial microcirculation due to blood columns produced in the disease; (v) hydrostatic pressure does not depend on vein diameter but on blood column height, only; and (vi) thermography alone or combined with ultrasonography with special attention to the bilaterality of the disease are the best non-invasive tools for its detection.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2005 · Human Reproduction
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