Purpose: We analyzed the efficacy of varicocele repair in improving semen parameters in azoospermic men with spermatogenic failure.
Materials and methods: After routine clinical evaluation with confirmatory pellet analysis testicular biopsy and varicocele repair were simultaneously performed in 28 azoospermic men with a primary diagnosis of unilateral or bilateral varicocele and spermatogenic failure. Semen analyses were obtained starting 4 months after varicocelectomy.
Results: Repair was bilateral repair in 20 men and unilateral in 8. Of the 28 men 12 (43%) had sperm in the ejaculate with a mean postoperative sperm count plus or minus standard deviation of 1.2+/-3.6x10(6)/ml. and an average followup of 24 months. Mean sperm motility was 19+/-24% (range 0 to 80). Testicular biopsy was predictive of outcome. Only 9 men with severe hypospermatogenesis and 5 with maturation arrest spermatid stage had improvement in sperm density. No improvement was seen in 3 men with the Sertoli-cell-only pattern or 3 with maturation arrest spermatocyte stage. No pregnancies by natural intercourse resulted. One couple used fresh ejaculate for intracytoplasmic sperm injection and 1 underwent testicular sperm extraction with intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Both pregnancies resulted in live births. No other predictive factors were identified.
Conclusions: Varicocele repair can result in sperm in the ejaculate of azoospermic men when severe hypospermatogenesis or maturation arrest spermatid stage is present. Select men with spermatogenic failure and varicoceles may be candidates for varicocele repair, rather than resorting to testis biopsy for sperm extraction in preparation for intracytoplasmic sperm injection. However, the couple should be counseled that assisted reproductive technologies will most likely be required to initiate pregnancy.