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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 18  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 349

Is varicocele repair necessary, given the advanced state of assisted reproductive technologies?

1 University of Virginia, Department of Urology, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA
2 Scott Department of Urology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas 77030, USA
3 Men's Health Center, 8240 Naab Road, Suite 220, Indianapolis, Indiana 46260, USA

Date of Web Publication08-Apr-2016

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Jason R Kovac
Men's Health Center, 8240 Naab Road, Suite 220, Indianapolis, Indiana 46260
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1008-682X.179245

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How to cite this article:
Smith RP, Lipshultz LI, Kovac JR. Is varicocele repair necessary, given the advanced state of assisted reproductive technologies?. Asian J Androl 2016;18:349

How to cite this URL:
Smith RP, Lipshultz LI, Kovac JR. Is varicocele repair necessary, given the advanced state of assisted reproductive technologies?. Asian J Androl [serial online] 2016 [cited 2021 Dec 8];18:349. Available from: - DOI: 10.4103/1008-682X.179245

Approximately, 1.6% of all infants born in the United States are conceived using assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs). With the growing rise of ART, questions have been raised about the utility of varicocele repair. While the ability of a microsurgical varicocele repair to improve semen parameters has been established, there remains no standard definition as to what constitutes significant improvements in semen parameters following varicocele repair. The majority of trials have observed enhanced parameters (specifically concentration and motility) as well as increased fertility.

Multiple meta-analyses have reviewed the voluminous existing data on varicocele repair and pregnancy rates, finding that correction of palpable varicoceles in the setting of at least one abnormal semen parameter improves the odds of spontaneous pregnancies. [1] Indeed, it is currently established that varicocele repair in men from couples with otherwise unexplained sub-fertility may improve a couple's chance for pregnancy. Unfortunately, this statement is based on low-quality evidence. More research is needed utilizing live birth or pregnancy rates as primary outcomes as opposed to changes in semen parameters. [2]

Debate often arises as to what is the most relevant surgical outcome following varicocele repair? While improvements in semen parameters are easily assessed, this contrasts with the goal of the infertile couple to translate laboratory results into increased pregnancies, birth rates, or improved ART outcomes. Varicocele repair has been shown to increase natural pregnancy rates and to mitigate the need for multiple ART cycles. This transmutes into cost-savings for couples and may decrease the risks of ART in female patients. Moreover, varicocele repair prior to in vitro fertilization through intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection improves live birth rates. [3] Unfortunately, many reproductive endocrinologists (REs) are unaware of these studies; however, these concepts have been gradually gaining acceptance over the years. Given that the ability to intervene relies on the timely referral of the male partner, continued education and enhanced communication between REs and andrologists are essential.

As noted by Pathak et al., [4] a growing area of interest in varicocele correction is focused on the patient with nonobstructive azoospermia (NOA). Varicoceles are found in 5%-10% of men with NOA and repair has been associated with the appearance of spermatozoa in the ejaculate in 8%-55% of cases, dependent upon the series. [5] The caveat in these situations is that many of these patients still have insufficient sperm in the ejaculate to avoid future ART. [6] Furthermore, varicocele repair can be combined with a testicular biopsy to determine whether spermatogenesis in men with NOA is present. Processing and cryopreservation of sperm from testicular tissue (if identified) can be conducted to harvest sperm at the same time as the testicular biopsy and varicocele repair, thus saving the patient future procedures. In cases where sperm does not successively appear in the ejaculate, varicocele repair has improved the chances of finding testicular sperm on subsequent fresh microTESE. [7] In summary, randomized controlled trials are needed to further elucidate the role of varicocele in NOA. Nevertheless, varicocele repair remains an important component in the modern treatment of the infertile male.

  References Top

Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine; Society for Male Reproduction and Urology. Report on varicocele and infertility: a committee opinion. Fertil Steril 2014; 102: 1556-60.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ficarra V, Cerruto MA, Liguori G, Mazzoni G, Minucci S, et al. Treatment of varicocele in subfertile men: the cochrane review - A contrary opinion. Eur Urol 2006; 49: 258-63.  Back to cited text no. 2
Chiles KA, Schlegel PN. Cost-effectiveness of varicocele surgery in the era of assisted reproductive technology. Asian J Androl 2016; 18: 259-61.  Back to cited text no. 3
Pathak P, Chandrashekar A, Hakky TS, Pastuszak AW. Varicocele management in the era of in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection. Asian J Androl 2016; 18: 343-8. [Doi: 10.4103/1008-682X.178482] [Epub ahead of print].  Back to cited text no. 4
Elzanaty S. Varicocele repair in non-obstructive azoospermic men: diagnostic value of testicular biopsy - A meta-analysis. Scand J Urol 2014; 48: 494-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
Schlegel PN, Goldstein M. Alternate indications for varicocele repair: non-obstructive azoospermia, pain, androgen deficiency and progressive testicular dysfunction. Fertil Steril 2011; 96: 1288-93.  Back to cited text no. 6
Inci K, Gunay LM. The role of varicocele treatment in the management of non-obstructive azoospermia. Clinics 2013; 68 Suppl 1: 89-98.  Back to cited text no. 7

This article has been cited by
1 Infertility duration and pre-operative sperm progressive motility are significant factors of spontaneous pregnancy after varicocele repair
Wenbiao Ren,Jiandong Qu,Bichen Xue,Jiao Hu,Xiongbing Zu
American Journal of Reproductive Immunology. 2020;
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