Embolization for varicoceles may help infertile couples conceive

December 7, 2006

In men with varicoceles, spermatic vein embolization can significantly improve the chances for pregnancy, German researchers suggest.

In men with varicoceles, spermatic vein embolization can significantly improve the chances for achieving successful conception, German researchers suggest. Furthermore, the level of sperm motility prior to treatment appears to be a key predictor of a successful pregnancy.

“We found that spermatic vein embolization combined with anti-inflammatory treatment improves sperm motility and sperm count in infertile men with varicoceles,” said Sebastian Flacke, MD, of the University of Bonn. “Six months after treatment, 26% of couples had achieved a pregnancy.”

Dr. Flacke presented the results of his group’s study at the Radiological Society of North America annual meeting in Chicago.

The researchers studied 223 infertile men, ages 18 to 50 years, with at least one varicocele. All of the men had healthy partners with whom they were trying to achieve a pregnancy.

In the study, 226 of the patients’ 228 varicoceles were successfully treated with embolization. Anti-inflammatory treatment and hormone substitution was initiated if required. A semen analysis performed on 173 patients 3 months after the procedure showed that, on average, sperm motility and sperm count had significantly improved. Six months later, 45 couples (26%) reported a pregnancy.

A high level of sperm motility before the procedure was identified as the only significant pre-treatment factor associated with increasing the odds of successful post-treatment pregnancy, Dr. Flacke said.