, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 185-192
Date: 17 May 2014

Role of varicocele repair for male infertility in the era of assisted reproductive technologies

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Abstract

Varicocele is an abnormal condition characterized by dilatation of the pampiniform plexus veins draining the testis and is present in 15 % of men. Varicoceles have an adverse effect on spermatogenesis and are the most common cause of male infertility. Approximately 35 % of infertile men and more than 70 % of men with secondary infertility were reported to have varicoceles. Although data on methods of varicocele repair are accumulating, there remains controversy regarding the indications and techniques for varicocele repair. In addition, the role of varicocele repair in this era of assisted reproductive technologies continues to be debated. In this study, we performed a comprehensive PubMed search in order to review the current status of varicocele repair for male infertility. We reviewed English-language studies published from 1992 through 2013. After reviewing the articles, we identified a recent meta-analysis of four randomized controlled trials, which found that varicocele repair for oligozoospermic men was associated with better pregnancy rates as compared with observation. Our review of prospective studies showed that all semen parameters, including sperm concentration, motility, and progressive motility, were significantly improved after varicocele repair. We also summarize the findings of recent studies reporting beneficial effects of varicocele repair, i.e., decreased oxidative stress and sperm DNA fragmentation after varicocele repair and superior cost effectiveness versus in vitro fertilization/intracytoplasmic sperm injection alone, which may be important in the era of assisted reproductive technologies. Varicocele repair is a widespread, well-established procedure that can improve semen parameters in men with infertility. The effect of such treatment on the pregnancy rate is unclear because evidence is limited due to difficulties in recruiting patients for studies. Among the repair techniques, microsurgical repair using a subinguinal approach is potentially the best practice, although this procedure requires training in microsurgery. All these topics require further research in studies with sufficient patient enrollment and follow-up.