Did you know that around 1 in 20 Australian men are infertile?
While there are many issues that can cause infertility in men, one common cause is a problem with sperm production. That is, either you’re not producing enough healthy sperm, or something is impairing sperm motility.
In a large percentage of infertile men, this reproductive issue is linked with the presence of varicocoeles. The good news is that thanks to interventional radiology, varicocoeles can be treated to improve healthy sperm count.
Let’s quickly explore what varicocoeles are, how they can inhibit fertility, and what you can do about them.
What is a varicocoele?
A varicocoele is a collection of abnormally dilated veins in the scrotum.
In healthy veins, one-way valves allow blood to flow through the testicles and scrotum, then back up to the heart. These veins take heat away from the testis, just like the radiator in a car.
In a varicocoele, these valves don’t function properly, which causes blood to flow backwards and pool in the veins (hence the enlargement). These may be visible to the naked eye, making the scrotum look like a “bag of worms”.
This condition affects 10-15% of the general population, and is detected in as many as 40% of men undergoing a fertility workup. Varicocoeles can sometimes cause mild to moderate discomfort, but many men with varicocoeles don’t even feel them.
How can varicocoeles affect fertility?
The temperature of the scrotum needs to be several degrees cooler than the body for normal sperm production. Usually, the scrotum self-regulates this temperature, and when the veins are normal, these take heat away from the testis, just like the radiator in a car.
When the veins are abnormal, venous drainage is impaired and blood refluxes back to the testis rather than being taken away. When this stagnant blood pools in varicocoeles, it heats up the whole area.
Just like a malfunctioning radiator in a car, the extra heat inhibits the scrotum’s ability to function. Sperm count and quality decreases, which can contribute to infertility in men.
How can varicocoeles be treated?
Sydney vascular specialist, Dr Albert Goh is able to perform an interventional procedure called varicocoele embolisation. This non-surgical treatment involves using high quality x-ray equipment to guide a thin, soft tube through a small venous puncture, and then depositing tiny coils to block retrograde flow into the problematic vein. The procedure is normally done in day surgery in an angiography suite. No incision, no wound, no stitches, no prolonged hospital stay.
This minimally invasive surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis, using local anaesthetic. Patients can be discharged within hours of the surgery, and can get back to work after a couple of days. After a day or two, most patients are fully recovered.
Want to know more? Watch our video here:
Get in touch!
If you have varicocoeles and are trying to conceive, contact us here at Sydney Medical Interventions to discuss your options.