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Varicocele Treatment Without Surgery – Why It’s Your Best Option

If you’ve been diagnosed with a varicocele you’re not alone. Approximately 15-20% of the male population suffer from this common condition but, more significantly, varicoceles are found in around 40% of interfertile men. This article discusses the benefits of varicocele treatment without surgery, and why it’s worthwhile going down this route as opposed to other more risky options such as microsurgery, open surgery or laparoscopic surgery.

What is a varicocele exactly?

A varicocele refers to the abnormal enlargement of veins, specifically the "pampiniform plexus" within the scrotum.

How does a varicocele develop?

Veins play a crucial role in transporting blood from organs back to the heart. Ordinarily, valves within these veins ensure blood flows in the correct direction. However, when the valves in the testicular vein malfunction, gravity can lead to blood pooling in the scrotum, resulting in a varicocele. Typically, varicoceles develop on the left side, likely due to the path of the testicular vein within the abdomen.

We're not sure exactly how a varicocele affects sperm structure, function, and production, but researchers think it might impact how the testicles control their temperature.

When does a varicocele require treatment?

In many cases, varicoceles don't require treatment. However, treatment may be recommended for males experiencing:

There aren't any medications specifically for treating or preventing varicoceles, but over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help manage discomfort.

When necessary, surgery has been the primary treatment option. However, this approach carries several risks and potential complications due to the requirement for general anesthesia and its highly invasive procedure. Another option is embolization, where the veins are briefly blocked, which is a non-surgical approach.

Opting for varicocele treatment without surgery provides numerous advantages that can improve your recovery and overall health. So, without further ado, let’s dive into the benefits of embolization and why you should consider it over traditional surgery.

  1. No general anesthesia

Many varicocele surgeries typically involve the use of general anesthesia, affecting the entire body and resulting in loss of consciousness. This approach has been associated with a higher incidence of complications such as nausea, vomiting, sore throat, and delayed return to normal mental function. Treating varicoceles without surgery offers the option of using local anesthesia, which has been proven to be safer with fewer risks. With local anesthesia, you can stay conscious during the procedure, avoiding mental fog and sedation, and experience a faster recovery. Additionally, for those who prefer not to remain fully conscious, moderate sedation is also available during the procedure.

  1. No overnight stay in hospital

Typically, varicocele surgery necessitates an overnight hospital stay for continuous monitoring of vital signs and assessment for potential complications by nurses and doctors. Conversely, non-surgical options such as varicocele embolization are frequently conducted on an outpatient basis. This allows you to return home the same day and recuperate in the comfort of your own home.

  1. No incisions

In varicocele surgery, your surgeon typically makes one or two incisions in the lower abdomen to locate, access, and mend the problematic veins. These incisions usually lead to scarring. Following surgery, you'll need to diligently monitor and cleanse your incisions for up to six weeks to lower the risk of infection. However, opting for non-surgical treatment like embolization involves only a small puncture site, resulting in minimal to no scarring and a reduced risk of infection.

  1. Quicker recovery period

After varicocele surgery, recovery usually takes between two and three weeks, potentially disrupting crucial commitments like work, school, family, and exercise. However, opting for non-surgical treatment methods such as embolization drastically shortens the recovery duration. With varicocele embolization, recovery usually lasts only one to two days, allowing you to swiftly return to your daily routine.

  1. Faster return to physical exercise

Following varicocele surgery, refraining from exercise and sexual activity is crucial for proper healing, as these actions can strain and potentially tear the incision, elevating the risk of bleeding and infection. Surgeons typically recommend abstaining from exercise for up to two weeks post-surgery and avoiding sexual activity for a month. However, non-surgical methods like embolization enable you to return to exercise within 7 to 10 days and resume sexual activity within one to two weeks, minimizing downtime.

  1. Reduced risk

If you've been diagnosed with varicoceles, opting for non-surgical methods can significantly lower your risk of infection and artery damage.

Varicocele embolization is a non-surgical approach that can mitigate potential complications associated with varicocele surgery. It alleviates painful symptoms, enhances fertility rates, and eliminates the need for hospitalization and prolonged recovery periods. Conducted swiftly and conveniently on an outpatient basis, varicocele embolization is typically more cost-effective than surgery and many other treatments.

Varicocele treatment without surgery – we’re here for you

If you’re struggling with pain or infertility issues varicocele embolization could be the right treatment for you.

Numerous studies and analyses demonstrate compelling evidence that treating clinically significant varicoceles in infertile males experiencing abnormalities in semen parameters through surgery can significantly improve morphology, motility, sperm counts, and pregnancy rates.

In adolescent males diagnosed with clinically apparent (large or medium-sized) varicoceles, repair procedures have been observed to potentially restore hormonal balance, normalize testis size, and improve sperm characteristics.

Call MINT STL to schedule a consultation with one of our Board-Certified Vascular and Interventional Radiologists to see if you’re a suitable candidate for varicocele embolization and how you can reap the benefits. We look forward to meeting you.

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