Have you been diagnosed with a varicocele? At MINT, we use varicocele embolization as a safe and effective alternative to surgery. Read on to learn more.
A varicocele is a relatively common condition that affects around 15% of younger men, typically between the ages of 15 and 25.
Varicoceles are similar to varicose veins; only they affect the testicular area rather than the legs. A varicocele commonly occurs on the left side, although it can occur on both sides of the scrotum.
A varicocele is caused by a malfunction in the vein transporting blood from the testicle. Usually, a series of one-way valves prevent the reverse flow of blood to the testicle. However, sometimes these valves fail, and gravity causes the blood to pool around a testicle in the scrotum. Over time this leads to the veins swelling and forming a varicocele.
Varicoceles are usually small and produce few symptoms. However, some affected men experience:
A feeling of a lump within the scrotum.
Discomfort or a dull ache, particularly at the end of the day when sitting or standing for a long time.
Infertility – Most men with varicoceles are not infertile, but a varicocele can increase the chance of infertility.
Testicular atrophy – Varicoceles can cause the testicles to shrink. However, they may recover following treatment.
Like any health issue, early detection is best. Regular self-examination of the scrotum can catch the problem early before it causes a significant problem such as infertility. Varicoceles are often likened to a 'bag of worms' and are usually located on the left side of the testicle. Physicians detect and diagnose most varicoceles during a clinical examination using an ultrasound scan.
Treatment for varicoceles isn't always necessary unless a patient has:
Discomfort and pain
A low sperm count
Unexplained infertility that has continued for more than two years
However once, the only treatment option was varicocelectomy surgery, patients can now benefit from varicocele embolization.
This minimally invasive procedure eliminates the need for general anesthesia and an incision near the genitals. It works by diverting blood flow from the affected veins to nearby healthy veins, causing the varicocele to shrink and eventually disappear.
Varicocele Embolization is performed on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia and sedation. With X-ray guidance, a specialist doctor called an Interventional Radiologist places a tiny catheter through a small needle puncture into the leg and vein leading from the varicocele before injecting a coloured dye to create a venogram (x-ray map) of the vein.
Tiny coils are inserted via the catheter to block the blood flow to the vein. The blood can exit the scrotum normally from other veins. Afterwards, the catheter is removed, and the entrance point on the leg is covered with a small bandage.
No incision or stitches.
The procedure is carried out on a day basis with no overnight stay.
Equally as effective as surgery. When fertility is a concern, Varicocele Embolization is just as effective as surgery (measured by improvement in semen analysis and pregnancy rates).
Recovery takes 24 hours, with many patients returning to work the next day compared to varicocelectomy, where patients may need to refrain from strenuous activity for several days or weeks.
Few complications and any infections are a rarity.
A patient with a varicocele on both sides can be treated simultaneously.
For more information or to learn if you are a suitable candidate for Varicocele Embolization, don't hesitate to contact The Midwest Institute for Non-Surgical Therapy (MINT) team. Click here!