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29 November 2006
New Treatment For Varicoceles A Success
by George Atkinson

A new minimally invasive treatment for varicoceles called embolization can significantly improve a couple's chances for pregnancy, reported researchers at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Their study found that the level of sperm motility (activity/movement) was boosted as a consequence of the treatment, thus increasing the couple's chances of a successful impregnation.

Varicoceles are not dissimilar to varicose veins that form in the scrotum. Normally, blood flows to the testicles and returns to the heart via a network of tiny veins that have a series of one-way valves to prevent the blood from flowing backward to the testicles. But if the valves that regulate the blood flow from these veins become defective, blood does not properly circulate out of the testicles, causing swelling and a tangle of blood vessels.

Varicoceles are relatively common, affecting up to 15 percent of U.S. men. Usually, they're harmless and don't produce symptoms; but sometimes a varicocele can cause pain or fertility problems. Traditionally, treatment has involved open surgery, but the new embolization method means men can often go home on the same day the procedure is performed. The procedure involves a small catheter being inserted through a nick in the skin and steered to the varicocele.

"We found that spermatic vein embolization combined with anti-inflammatory treatment improves sperm motility and sperm count in infertile men with varicoceles," said researcher Sebastian Flacke.

In Flacke's study, over 99 percent of patients with varicoceles were successfully treated with embolization. A semen analysis performed on 173 of the patients three months after the procedure showed that on average, sperm motility and sperm count had significantly improved. "This study confirms that varicocele repair can significantly improve sperm count and motility," Flacke concluded.

Based on material from the Radiological Society of North America

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