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Int J Androl. 2011 Jun;34(3):236-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2605.2010.01081.x.

Varicocele correction for infertility: which patients to treat?

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Department of Internal Medicine, O.U. of Metabolic Diseases and Endocrinology, PP.OO. Monopoli-Conversano, ASL Bari, Conversano, Bari, Italy.


Given the lack of clarity regarding the value of varicocele correction in improving male fertility, we examined whether divergent results in this regard could be attributed to selection of patients, especially with regard to the duration of their infertility or to the length of patients' androgen receptor CAG repeats. In a prospective study, involving all varicocele patients consulted consecutively for infertility, we compared the pregnancy rate (PR) over 1 year produced by patients who opted not to have varicocele correction after extensive information concerning fertility prospects (N = 185), with that by patients who had varicocele correction (N = 137). In the second study involving another smaller group of varicocele subjects (N = 72), we investigated whether CAG repeat length in the androgen receptor gene had any influence on fertility of varicocele-corrected patients. Overall, the PR in corrected and uncorrected varicocele groups did not differ significantly, but when subjects with infertility beyond 2 years were considered, varicocele-corrected subjects had a significantly greater PR than uncorrected varicocele patients (p = 0.025). Together with infertility duration, spermatozoa progressive motility appears the most important predictor of fertility, whereas neither grade of varicocele nor age of the couple (within the age limits of this study) influenced the outcome. Similarly, CAG repeat length did not affect the outcome of varicocele correction. These data suggest that varicocele correction at 1 year of infertility does not result in a significantly higher PR than that achieved by men with uncorrected varicocele. In view of the high spontaneous PR in subjects with an infertility of less than 2 years, varicocele correction aimed at restoring fertility appears to be most appropriate for men whose infertility extends beyond 2 years.

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