Varicocelectomy Is Not a Cure.
Learn the facts. Make an Informed Decision.
NNT of Varicocelectomy & Embolization
The Benefits in Number Needed to Treat (NNT) stands for how many people need to be treated before one benefit is attained. For example, the NNT for surgery is 7, meaning that for every 7 men who undergo the procedure, 1 additional pregnancy will be attained. The NNT for pain relief is not established, nor is the NNT for improving testosterone is not established.
Note that just because your sperm count increases by for example 70%, that doesn't necessarily translate to a successful pregnancy.
But, notice what the NNT this does not say: It does not say that the swelling will be gone. It does not say that you will not develop chronic pain after the procedure. It does not say anything about the harms of the procedure.
NNH of Varicocelectomy & Embolization
So, we also need to educate ourselves about the Number Needed to Harm (NNH). The NNH stands for how many people need to be treated before one harm occurs. For example, for about every 3 men with right-sided varicocele who undergo embolization, 1 redevelops varicocele. Another example, for every 100 men who undergo microsurgery, 1 testicular loss occurs due to arterial damage.
Notice that there still isn’t a real discussion about the most important thing: Alternatives! What other, non-invasive alternatives do you have? How effective are those alternatives in contrasted to surgery and embolization? What are the NNTs? What are the NNHs? Are there more effective alternatives? Especially, if you’re looking for improving your fertility, are there alternative that are both safer and more effective? For pain relief, and restoring normal testosterone too; what are the alternatives?
Why You Must Demand More Answers!
So, you see, knowing about the NNT, helps you ask very specific questions. Don’t just believe “high rate of success”. Ask questions! “High rate of success, for what specific benefit?” “What is the NNT to attain that benefit?” “How strong is the evidence supporting each specific benefit?” “What are the associated harms, and my likelihood of suffering from one of them?” “Are there any alternative treatment methods, especially non-invasive, or lifestyle related that I need to know about?”
Your Right to Informed Consent:
Truly, learning about and asking about the NNT and NNH is about practicing your right to informed consent. But, the real problem is that most doctors are so rushed for time that they will almost never give you the complete picture. But, it’s time that we demand not more from our medical practitioners. It’s time that we do our own research when it comes to potentially harmful procedures. It is time that we begin to practice our right to informed consent.
Varicocele: NNTs Table
Varicocele: NNHs Table for Varicocelectomy
Varicocele: NNHs Table for Embolization
Mr. Daniel Johnson, B.Sc.
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