Current issues in varicocele management: a review

World J Mens Health. 2013 Apr;31(1):12-20. doi: 10.5534/wjmh.2013.31.1.12. Epub 2013 Apr 23.


The most common cause of male infertility is varicocele, and varicocele is the most common correctable cause of male factor infertility. In this article we reviewed the concept of varicocele in terms of its diagnosis, method of treatment, indications for treatment, treatment outcomes, and prognostic factors. Physical examination is an essential diagnostic tool in the evaluation of a patient with a varicocele. However, as it depends on subjective findings, standardization of the physical examination method is needed. Various methods for treatment of varicocele exist, including open surgical, laparoscopic, microscopic surgical, and radiologic treatment such as embolization. Among these treatment approaches, microscopic inguinal or subinguinal varicocelectomy has superior outcomes, with a low complication rate. The influence of the treatment of varicocele on fertility is still a controversial issue and a difficult question to address, because there are limitations to performing a randomized control study, and previous studies had a heterogeneity of subjects and high dropout rate. However, there is robust evidence that varicocelectomy improves semen parameters as a surrogate marker of the potential for fertility. To date, general indications for treatment of varicocele are limited in patients with proven infertility, clinical palpable varicocele, and abnormal semen characteristics. Recently, it was shown that some symptoms other than infertility could be an indication for varicocelectomy because these symptoms are frequently related to deterioration of semen parameters. Varicocele in the adolescent presents a more difficult decision regarding whether to treat. A testicular size discrepancy of more than 20% is helpful for treatment decisions. Various prognostic factors were noted in several studies without, however, a consistent consensus.

Keywords: Infertility, male; Varicocele; Varicocelectomy.