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J Urol. 2010 May;183(5):2008-11. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2010.01.034. Epub 2010 Mar 19.

Cost-benefit analysis of scrotal ultrasound in treatment of adolescents with varicocele.

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  • 1Urological Institute of Northeastern New York and Division of Urology, Albany Medical College, Albany, New York, USA.



Varicoceles are a major cause of male factor infertility, although management of adolescent varicoceles is controversial. Most clinicians advocate repair if there is a persistent testicular size discrepancy of greater than 20%. Using previously published data, we performed a cost-benefit analysis of testicular ultrasound vs orchidometry to evaluate for this size difference.


We performed a PubMed search using the terms "adolescent varicocele," "ultrasound and varicocele," and "testis size and varicocele." Using the data from the relevant studies and Medicare reimbursement data from our region, we determined the cost of missing a persistent testicular size difference of greater than 20%.


Approximately 25% of adolescents with varicocele have a persistent size discrepancy of greater than 20%. Approximately 40% of this group would be identified as having a size discrepancy with conventional orchidometry. The annual cost of ultrasound for every adolescent male with a varicocele would be $364 million if the imaging were done in an office based setting. If the testing were done at a hospital, the annual cost would be $795 million. The cost per case of missed persistent size discrepancy spanning 3 years is approximately $5,597 for office ultrasound and $12,226 for hospital ultrasound.


There is limited evidence that adolescent varicocele repair improves paternity in adulthood. In an era of increasing health care costs the expense of ultrasound to evaluate for size discrepancy is significant and should be thoughtfully evaluated.

2010 American Urological Association Education and Research, Inc. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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