Minimally invasive treatment improves male fertility

August 14, 2008

A minimally invasive treatment for varicoceles can significantly improve a couple’s chances of achieving pregnancy, according to a study published in Radiology (2008; 248:540-9). The study, conducted at the University of Bonn in Germany, also found that the level of sperm motility prior to treatment is a key predictor of success.

A minimally invasive treatment for varicoceles can significantly improve a couple’s chances of achieving pregnancy, according to a study published in Radiology (2008; 248:540-9). The study, conducted at the University of Bonn in Germany, also found that the level of sperm motility prior to treatment is a key predictor of success.

“Venous embolization, a simple treatment using a catheter through the groin, can help to improve sperm function in infertile men,” said lead author Sebastian Flacke, MD, PhD. “With the patients’ improved sperm function, more than one-quarter of their healthy partners were able to become pregnant.”

Dr. Flacke and colleagues set out to identify predictors of pregnancy after embolization of varicoceles in infertile men. The study included 223 infertile men, ages 18 to 50 years, with at least one varicocele. All 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. 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.

“Embolization of varicoceles in infertile men may be considered a useful adjunct to in vitro fertilization,” Dr. Flacke said.