About Male Varicoceles
A common affliction affecting 15 to 20 percent of the male population and up to 40 percent of infertile males, a varicocele is an enlargement of the blood vessels or varicose veins within the scrotum (the loose bag of skin that contains the testicles). When the one-way valves that allow flow blood from the testicles and scrotum back to the heart circulate inefficiently, blood pools in the veins. This pooling often leads to dilation and swelling, increasing internal pressure and temperature. As a result, varicoceles can result in damage in the testicles, a decrease in fertility (sperm count and quality), and dull aches or pain in the scrotum.
While some varicoceles may cause no symptoms, others may lead to one or more of the following tell-tale signs:
- Dull or aching pain in the scrotum, especially when a person has been in an upright position for an extended time or lifting heavy objects. Often this discomfort ceases when patients lie down.
- Shrinking of one or more testicles
- Mass in the scrotum resembling “a bag of worms,” usually found in the left testicle
- Infertility or impotence
Diagnosis & Treatment
A physician can diagnose a varicocele using a non-invasive duplex ultrasound to measure veins, assess blood flow, and identify additional abnormalities.
At ARA Health, our highly trained physicians treat varicoceles using a minimally invasive embolization technique, which requires only a small “IV-like” puncture and no stitches or general anesthesia. Unlike equally effective surgical options that require extended recovery times, embolization can be performed within an hour and a half in an outpatient setting with a minimal recuperation period.
During a varicocele embolization, performed under sedation and local anesthesia, an interventional radiologist inserts a thin catheter (small flexible tube) into a vein in the neck. Using X-ray guidance, small amounts of dye are injected to locate the varicocele. From there, tiny coils made of stainless steel or platinum are inserted into the faulty testicular vein to prevent backflow, thereby reducing pressure, and restoring normal circulation. In some instances, a small amount of medication is also injected to augment the embolization (blockage) of the faulty vein.