Author(s): Cayan S, Erdemir F, Ozbey I, Turek PJ, Kadiolu A
PURPOSE: We assessed how varicocelectomy alters semen quality in a large cohort of infertile men and determined whether it can change patient candidacy for assisted reproductive technology procedures.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A cohort of 540 infertile men with clinical palpable varicocele underwent microsurgical varicocelectomy and were followed more than 1 and 2 years postoperatively for alterations in semen quality and conception, respectively. Preoperatively and postoperatively the total motile sperm count was calculated in all semen analyses. Based on total motile sperm count values patients were divided into 4 groups according to the type of assisted reproductive technology for which they qualified, including 0 to 1.5 million or less (intracytoplasmic sperm injection candidates), 1.5 to 5 million or less (in vitro fertilization candidates), 5 to less than 20 million (intrauterine insemination candidates) and 20 million or greater sperm (spontaneous pregnancy candidates). Preoperative and postoperative semen quality was compared among individuals in these cohorts to determine the shifts in assisted reproductive technology care that are possible after varicolectomy.
RESULTS: Mean patient age was 29.5 years (range 18 to 58). Microsurgical varicocelectomy was bilateral in 393 patients (73\%), on the left side in 146 (27\%) and on the right side in 1 (0.2\%). A positive response to varicocelectomy, defined as a greater than 50\% increase in total motile sperm count, was observed in 271 patients (50\%). An overall spontaneous pregnancy rate of 36.6\% was achieved after varicocelectomy with a mean time to conception of 7 months (range 1 to 19). Of preoperative in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection candidates 31\% became intrauterine insemination or spontaneous pregnancy candidates after varicolectomy. Of intrauterine insemination candidates 42\% gained the potential for spontaneous pregnancy.
CONCLUSIONS: Varicocelectomy has significant potential not only to obviate the need for assisted reproductive technology, but also to down stage or shift the level of assisted reproductive technology needed to bypass male factor infertility.