Varicocele occurs when the veins in the testicles become blocked. The veins normally take blood away from the testicles, but when this flow stops operating normally it can cause the blood to collect and cause a swelling, known as varicocele. Approximately one in five men experience varicocele and it usually develops in the left testicle, although it can be present in either or both.
Symptoms of varicocele may include pain in the scrotum or groin, one testicle looking more swollen and hanging down lower than the other or a heavy or dragging sensation in the scrotum. For some individuals the symptoms may not be serious enough to need surgery, however for some there might be severe discomfort or a risk of affecting the quality of the sperm and therefore they are recommended to have treatment.
Varicocele embolisation is a procedure used to block the veins where the blood is collecting. The procedure involves a thin tube being inserted into the vein and then a liquid containing metal coils to be inserted into the vein to cause a blockage. This procedure is usually carried out using local anaesthetic.
A varicocelectomy procedure may be used to keep a healthy supply of blood to the testicles. This involves cutting and tieing the veins through an incision in the groin, scrotum or above the penis. The surgeon uses a micro-telescope to locate the varicocele and then uses a specialised instrument to cut the vein. For this procedure the patient is given general anaesthetic.