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Fertil Steril. 1993 Mar;59(3):613-6.

Loss of fertility in men with varicocele.

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Department of Urology, New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, New York 10021.



To test the hypothesis that men with varicocele who have already fathered children are immune to the detrimental effect of varicocele on their fertility and will continue to be fertile. If this were the case, one would expect a very low incidence of varicocele in currently infertile men who were able to father a child in the past (secondary infertility) compared with men who have never been fertile (primary infertility).


Survey of men with male factor infertility.


Tertiary care university medical center.


One thousand ninety-nine infertile men of whom 98 (9%) met our criteria for secondary infertility. Men with prior vasectomy and men whose partners were over age 40 were excluded.


Difference in the incidence of varicocele in men with secondary infertility versus primary infertility.


A varicocele was palpable in 35% (352/1,001) of men with primary infertility and 81% (79/98) of men with secondary infertility. This difference in the incidence of varicocele was highly significant. Men with secondary infertility and varicocele were slightly older (37.9 versus 33.5 years), had a lower mean sperm concentration (30.2 versus 46.1 x 10(6)/mL), more abnormally shaped sperm (72% versus 40%), and higher mean serum follicle-stimulating hormone levels (17.6 versus 7.9 mIU/mL,) compared with men with primary infertility and varicocele.


The incidence of varicocele is much higher in male factor secondary infertility compared with primary infertility. These findings suggest that varicocele causes a progressive decline in fertility and that prior fertility in men with varicocele does not predict resistance to varicocele induced impairment of spermatogenesis. Men with a varicocele may benefit from early evaluation and prophylactic varicocelectomy to prevent future infertility.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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