Adolescent varicocelectomy: does artery sparing influence recurrence rate and/or catch-up growth?

Andrology. 2014 Mar;2(2):159-64. doi: 10.1111/j.2047-2927.2013.00142.x. Epub 2013 Dec 13.


The prevalence of varicocoeles is 15% in the general adolescent and adult male population and in 35-40% of men evaluated for infertility. While varicocelectomy can be performed using various methods and techniques, the laparoscopic approach allows for clear visualization of the testicular artery and lymphatics. Amongst urologists, particularly paediatric urologists, and andrologists there is much debate regarding the significance of testicular artery sparing when performing a varicocelectomy, with some believing that ligating the testicular artery impairs catch-up growth and future fertility. On the other hand, several studies have reported higher failure rates with artery preservation. To help resolve the debate regarding the significance of artery sparing, we sought to compare varicocoele recurrence rate and catch-up growth in patients who underwent artery sparing laparoscopic varicocelectomy compared with those who had the artery sacrificed. We identified 524 laparoscopic varicocelectomies in 425 patients from our adolescent varicocoele database. Only patients who had ultrasound determined testicular volume measurements pre-operatively and at least 6 months post-operatively were included. Post-operative persistence/recurrence of varicocoele, testicular atrophy and repeat varicocelectomy were noted. Catch-up growth was compared between procedures in those with significant pre-operative asymmetry. Four hundred and forty primary laparoscopic varicocelectomies were performed in 355 patients (mean age: 15.5 years, range 9.3-20.6; mean follow-up: 32.9 months, range 6.0-128.9) who had both pre- and post-varicocelectomy scrotal Duplex Doppler ultrasound performed. The testicular artery was preserved in 54 varicocoeles (41 patients) and ligated in 384 varicocoeles (312 patients). We observed an increased rate of persistent/recurrent varicocoele in the artery-sparing vs. artery ligating patients (12.2% vs. 5.4%, p = 0.09). In addition, there was no difference in catch-up growth and no instance of testicular atrophy. As artery sparing varicocelectomy offered no advantage in regards to catch-up growth and was associated with a higher incidence of recurrent varicocoele, preservation of the artery does not appear to be routinely necessary in adolescent varicocelectomy.

Keywords: adolescent; artery sparing; varicocelectomy; varicocoele.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Genital Diseases, Male / diagnostic imaging
  • Genital Diseases, Male / surgery
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy
  • Lymphatic Vessels*
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Spermatic Cord / diagnostic imaging
  • Spermatic Cord / surgery*
  • Testis / blood supply*
  • Ultrasonography
  • Varicocele / diagnostic imaging
  • Varicocele / surgery*
  • Young Adult