A new research shows that nonsurgical embolization is ninty-eight percent effective, offers a lower recurrence rate and much quicker recovery than surgery for the treatment of varicoceles (varicose veins in the testicle and scrotum). This condition in men can cause pain, testicular atrophy or fertility problems—and can greatly impact quality of life. "Varicoceles are a major, but underdiagnosed cause of infertility—it is important for these patients to have an early diagnosis and quick management," said Maurizio Grosso, M.D., interventional radiologist and study author. Statistical analysis of the data from spermiograms showed constant improvement in sperm count, motility, structure and form.
In the research presented today, a liquid alcohol (hydroxypolyethoxydocanol) was used in the procedure to sclerose, or close off, the faulty veins so they can no longer enlarge with blood, alleviating the symptoms. After the outpatient procedure, each patient stayed six hours at the hospital before being discharged. There is an average of one to two days for complete recovery, including resuming physical activity, with embolization. Surgery has a two to three weeks recovery time, with another two to three weeks until the patient can return to full exercise, such as jogging. The interventional radiology treatment is much less painful and does not have the risks associated with general anesthesia.
"This interventional radiology procedure does not require hospitalization or general anesthesia, results are comparable or better than surgery and the recurrence rate is lower," said Grosso. "The male fertility center at St. Anna Hospital in Turin, which is the largest obstetric and gynecologic hospital in Italy, has recommended the interventional radiology treatment to all varicocele patients for about nine years. Hopefully this research will make American men more aware of their treatment options." Of the 918 patients treated, only 19 had to be retreated during the follow-up period (1999-2006). Fourteen of those who received further treatment required it in the first six months following the procedure. Varicoceles sometimes recur due to the growth of new collateral veins surrounding the treated vessel, or due to incomplete treatment for technical reasons.
This study out of Cuneo, Italy, was conducted over seven years with 918 male patients ranging in age from nine to 65 years-old. During the procedure, the interventional radiologist made a nick in the skin to access the femoral vein, then used X-ray imaging to guide a catheter up the femoral vein into the faulty vein, introducing the alcohol to seal the vein shut and allow healthy veins to take over.