Incidence, significance and natural history of persistent retrograde venous flow after varicocelectomy in children and adolescents: correlation with catch-up growth

J Urol. 2013 Aug;190(2):689-95. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2013.02.3195. Epub 2013 Mar 6.


Purpose: Varying incidences and levels of persistent retrograde venous flow have been reported following adult and adolescent varicocelectomy but the significance remains unclear. We sought to determine the incidence and natural history of persistent flow and whether it had any effect on postoperative testicular catch-up growth.

Materials and methods: We retrospectively analyzed pre-varicocelectomy and post-varicocelectomy Doppler duplex ultrasound findings. Peak retrograde venous flow, maximum vein diameter, flow quality and varicocele grade were recorded at each visit. Catch-up growth was defined as less than 15% testicular asymmetry at final visit.

Results: Of 330 patients (median age 15.4 years) undergoing varicocelectomy (laparoscopic in 247, open in 83) 145 had residual retrograde venous flow after Valsalva maneuver with a mean peak of 13.3 cm per second. Of 290 patients with repeat Doppler duplex ultrasound (median followup 2.6 years) 124 had initial peak retrograde venous flow less than 20 cm per second (43%) and only 17 (6%) had flow 20 cm per second or greater. Incidence of post-varicocelectomy retrograde venous flow at last visit (48%) was similar to that at initial postoperative visit (49%). Of 330 boys 20 had recurrence of palpable varicocele (grade 2 or 3), of whom 18 (90%) had initial retrograde venous flow. Catch-up growth was more likely in patients with no retrograde venous flow, and rates of catch-up growth decreased as peak retrograde venous flow increased. All 5 patients with initial testicular asymmetry and persistent retrograde venous flow at levels greater than 30 cm per second had continued testicular asymmetry (ie none had catch-up growth).

Conclusions: Retrograde venous flow is frequently present after varicocelectomy and is almost always associated with peak retrograde venous flow rates significantly lower than those seen in patients who are recommended for initial varicocelectomy. Retrograde venous flow tends to persist during followup at stable peak retrograde venous flow rates. Palpable recurrence and persistent testicular asymmetry are most often associated with postoperative peak retrograde venous flow rates 20 cm per second or greater.

Keywords: CUG; DDUS; Doppler duplex ultrasound; MVD; PRF; RVF; catch-up growth; maximum vein diameter; peak retrograde venous flow; pediatrics; retrograde venous flow; ultrasonography, Doppler, duplex; urologic surgical procedures, male; varicocele.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Laparoscopy
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Testis / blood supply*
  • Testis / diagnostic imaging
  • Testis / growth & development*
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex*
  • Valsalva Maneuver
  • Varicocele / diagnostic imaging
  • Varicocele / surgery*