Not a Cure.
Learn the facts. Make an Informed Decision.
Mr. Daniel Johnson, B.Sc.
Before considering surgery, you need to know the NNT, and the complete list of benefits vs risks.
In order to repair a varicocele the following criteria should be fulfilled 1:
Is Varicocele Surgery a Cure?
Varicocele surgery is not a cure. It is simply another treatment method for varicocele.
Meet Your New Best Friend
Your new best friend is the term Number Needed to Treat (NNT). The NNT is statistic used in to communicate the effectiveness of a health-care intervention. The NNT is the average number of patients who need to be treated to produce one positive outcome.
What Your Surgeon Won't Tell You:
What do you think the NNT is for varicocelectomy? It's 7 [1, 2]. That means for every 7 men who undergo varicocele surgery, only 1 additional pregnancy is attained. That's only 14%. Only 14% of men who undergo varicocelectomy attain a benefit. Is that a cure? I think not. Good physicians generally do not recommend varicocelectomy. Actually, many scientific publications have found that varicocele surgery is not effective at all for improving pregnancy rates! [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8].
Oh and the the benefits of varicocelectomy for pain relief is simply questionable and not recommended. There is simply too little research done on the topic.
Now, maybe that doesn't sound so bad to you... But if you consider the fact that you're more likely to suffer from severe negative side effects than to attain a benefit, then things get put into perspective. And the potential side effects are very serious. We're talking about hydrocele formation, onset of pain (which can be permanent), testicular loss due to artery rupture, internal bleeding, and persistent recurrent varicocele to name a few. (Comprehensive: Surgery risks & benefits).
The benefits may be uncertain, but the risks are very real. Now, would you even consider surgery knowing all this?
Embolization Isn't An Alternative
If you thought the NNT for varicocelectomy was bad, you won't even want to know what the NNT for embolization is... Well, I'll tell you anyway: It's 17.  That's right--for every 17 men who undergo embolization, only 1 additional pregnancy is attained. That's 6%. And embolization isn't a low risk procedure. You're looking at up to 30% varicocele recurrence rate (depending on the skill of your radiologist and which side you treat). (Comprehensive: Embolization risks & benefits).
Why My Treatments ARE The Best.
Now, keep in mind that there is no cure for varicocele.
The enlarged and inflamed veins in your scrotum, especially those in the spermatic cord, that are producing your varicocele need to be removed so your testicles can receive the proper nutrients and oxygen they need. If not treated, your testicles will begin to suffer from the blood stasis, affecting your fertility in the long run and producing testicular and inguinal pain.
A varicocelectomy is a surgical procedure that could provide some benefits to varicocele patients. It is usually recommended to (Woo Suk et al, 2013):
What To Do Before Surgery
After your doctor explained to you how the procedure is done, what is the best thing for your case, its benefits, risks, and possible complications, you will have to follow certain guidelines and know some things before going into surgery.
What Happens Moments Prior to Surgery?
When you arrive for surgery, you will usually be attended by the nurses who will ask you to change your clothes for a hospital gown. The anesthesia personnel will lie you down on the surgical table and will usually administer a sedative to calm you down and the anesthesia medication, either a local or a general one, depending on what you and your doctor decided when talking about the procedure.
Is a norm to use a bladder catheter to remove the urine during the procedure, but do not worry, it will be introduced after the anesthesia. If you decide to go with the general anesthesia, the doctor will intubate you. From this moment on, your vital signs will be checked by the responsible team, who will check them before, during, and after the surgery.
During the Procedure
The most popular method is the microsurgical varicocelectomy, either with the inguinal or sub-inguinal technique, as several studies show (Binsaleh et al, 2007; Zini, 2007; Woo Suk et al, 2013; Mehta et al, 2013; Gde, 2013). Other options include the laparoscopic method, the open surgery technique, and the embolization option, which is likely to be the least beneficial one of all.
The main focus of the surgeon is getting inside the pelvic region and cut the enlarged veins found in the spermatic cord, which are compromising the blood flow, for then clamping, tying or cauterizing them.
After the Surgery Recommendations
You will wake up in the recovery room, where the nurses and doctors will assist you. You will spend some time recovering, while you receive painkillers and maybe some sedative, if you want them. At this moment you can be accompanied by a companion, either family or friend.
The doctor will give you prescriptions for medications you need to take, such as antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatory, etc. You will receive guidelines to clean your incisions, as well as recommendations like putting ice on your scrotum several times a day, avoiding sexual activity for up to 2 weeks to 1 month, avoiding exercising and taking home rest for work for a few weeks, etc.
After surgery consultations with the doctor will be scheduled to observe your progression as well as a new spermiogram to analyze sperm quality and count.
So, What Could Go Wrong?
As is well known, a surgical procedure can have its complications, some minor, some more serious. As stated above, the preferred surgical method is the microsurgical varicocelectomy, which provides the least number of complications (Carbone et al, 2003; Baazeem et al, 2011; Woo Suk et al, 2013; Mehta et al, 2013). Either way, here is a list of some of the complications that could happen, taking into consideration that the experience of the surgeon, as in others procedures, can sometimes make the difference.
In the End, is it Worth It?
As several studies mentioned above show, microsurgical varicocelectomy is the best option among the surgical procedures, dealing with minor complications rates and better outcomes. However, the same and other studies (Kantartzi et al, 2007; Shamsa et al, 2010; Baazeem et al, 2011; Kroese et al, 2012; Woo Suk et al, 2013; Gde, 2013) conclude that more investigation is needed to make microsurgical varicocelectomy the best option to treat varicocele.
In the major part of these studies, varicocelectomy did not improve sperm quality or count in a significant way compared to the control group (in the studies that provided a control group), while in others it did improve the sperm parameters, but the studies were not well-designed.
As per the pregnancy outcome, most of the conclusions were suggesting but not conclusive, giving low pregnancy rates after varicocelectomy. More studies should be done based on pregnancy rates after varicocelectomy as the primary outcome to have a definitive information.
Other than that, these studies showed that the microsurgical varicocelectomy NNT (number needed to treat) is 7, meaning that for every 7 patients who receive surgery, 1 gets the benefits. When compared with the embolization option, which has an NNT of 17, the previous method received more recommendations. However, an NNT of 7 is not that good, considering that the patients are going into surgery taking many risks when they could consider alternative treatment methods instead.
Either way, having all the information, is up to every patient to decide what he thinks is best for him.
Dealing with Informed Consent.
Before the surgery, you will be asked to read and sign an informed consent in which the whole process with its benefits, risks, complications, anesthesia, and different phases are explained in total details. This informed consent is a way of mixing health with laws and bioethics.
Is basically a legal document where you declare you know everything there is to know about the procedure and let the doctors do their jobs, accepting their terms and conditions. For this reason is very important for you to discuss every single detail with your health care team before signing any paper and going into surgery.
These are some questions you could ask your doctors before deciding for surgery:
Author: Dr. Stefano Pizzo
Dr. Stefano Pizzo is a general practitioner. He graduated from Universidad de Oriente (UDO), Barcelona, Venezuela. In his last year as a Medical student, he lent his services in the Departments of Gynecology and Obstetrics, General Surgery, Traumatology, Internal Medicine, and Pediatrics at the "Luis Ortega" Central Hospital in Nueva Esparta State, doing assistance work in its Emergency and Hospitalization areas. Since then, he became a trained expert in Neural Therapy and he occupies the majority of his time writing valid and certified medical and scientific articles, especially in the Anti-Aging and Alternative Medicine fields.
Learn About Varicocele Home Treatment:
Complete Treatment Program
Varicocele Healing Guide
Varicocele Pain Relief Guide
Varico Health Kit
Varico Health Kit II
Varicocele Yoga Video Series
Varicocele Natural Treatment
Varicocele Pain Relief
Living with Varicocele
Exercising with Varicocele
Herbs & Supplements
Yoga for Varicocele
Schedule a Treatment ConsultATION Call
We offer phone consultations calls to help assess if natural treatments are right for you.