Varicocele Embolisation

Minimally invasive treatment for a cause of scrotal pain and male subfertility.

A varicocele is a collection of swollen veins in the scrotum. It is a common condition, occurring in about 25% of young men, and usually causes only minor symptoms. In some men, however, a varicocele is associated with more severe pain which can be troublesome and interfere with normal activities. Varicoceles can also be associated with reduced fertility and are therefore commoner in those men suffering from fertility problems. Varicoceles occur because of a problem with the valves in the veins which carry blood from the scrotum and testicles. The condition, therefore, shares some similarities with varicose veins in the legs, and pelvic congestion syndrome in females.

Varicocele Symptoms

  • Aching or dragging sensation in the scrotum, groin or inner thigh
  • Visible swollen veins
  • Reduced fertility due to impaired sperm formation
  • Testicular atrophy – a small testicle on one side

What causes a varicocele?

Similar to varicose veins, a varicocele is caused by abnormal vein valves. When leaky, these valves do not return blood back to the heart as they should and this causes a buildup of pressure and therefore swollen veins. They are commoner on the left side of the scrotum as the left testicular vein is more prone to valve problems.

How is a varicocele managed?

Many men do not need treatment for their varicocele. For those who have troublesome symptoms and in particular those with potential fertility issues, management options are as follows:

  • Embolisation – where special thin metal coils are used to block the abnormal veins
  • Surgery – where a cut in the groin or scrotum is used to close of the abnormal veins.

Undoubtedly symptoms are best managed by an individual patient-centred approach and some men would prefer surgery and others embolisation. When you are seen in rooms by the IR specialist you can trust that you will be only offered treatment if it is thought to be your best option.

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