What is a varicocele?
A varicocele is a dilated vein in the scrotum around the testicle. It may cause pain and heaviness in the area. Healthy veins within the scrotum contain one-way valves that allow blood to flow from the testicles and scrotum back to the heart. When you have a varicocele, these valves do not function properly; this causes the blood to pool which enlarges the vein.
A varicocele can lead to testicular atrophy (shrinkage of the testicles) and possibly contribute to infertility. Some experts believe that the elevated temperature resulting from the pooled blood in these veins can decrease sperm count and motility, and decrease the number of functional sperm.
What is the prevalence of varicoceles?
Varicocele is more common in younger men:
- Approximately 10 percent of all men have varicoceles
- The highest occurrence of varicoceles is in males ages 15–35 Among infertile couples
- 30 percent of men have varicoceles
What are the symptoms of a varicocele?
Symptoms of a varicocele may include:
- Pain. Men who experience aching pain in their testicles—often when exercising, standing or sitting for a long time—may have varicoceles. The pain is due to pressure that builds up on the affected veins. Heavy lifting may aggravate the symptoms and in some cases, may cause a varicocele to form. Sometimes — but not always — the painful varicoceles can be prominent in size.
- Fertility Problems. There is an association between varicoceles and infertility. Decreased sperm count, decreased motility of sperm, and an increase in the number of deformed sperm can be related to varicoceles. Some experts believe that varicoceles cause infertility by raising the temperature in the scrotum and decreasing sperm production.
- Testicular Atrophy. Shrinkage of the testicles is another symptom of varicoceles. Once treated, it is possible for the affected testicles to return to normal size.
How is a varicocele treated?
There are both surgical and a non-surgical options. Patients are encouraged to explore their treatment options.
Varicocele embolization is a proven, highly effective procedure with excellent treatment outcomes for dilated veins in the scrotum around the testicle.
The treatment is as effective as surgery with less risk, less pain and a significantly shorter recovery period. We work closely with your urologist to make sure that prostate varicocele embolization is an appropriate therapy.
Varicocele embolization is a minimally invasive procedure outpatient procedure. Minimally invasive means it does not involve surgery. It is performed by an interventional radiologist using image-guided techniques in a special angiography suite in an outpatient setting. Typically mild IV sedation and local anesthesia are used.