Author(s): Chiou RK, Anderson JC, Wobig RK, Rosinsky DE, Matamoros A Jr
OBJECTIVES: Color Doppler ultrasound (CDU) diagnostic criteria for varicoceles are poorly defined, and the role of CDU in diagnosing varicoceles is controversial. The purpose of this study is to assess the diagnostic accuracy of CDU for varicoceles compared to physical examination.
METHODS: We prospectively studied 64 patients with CDU and collected the following data: maximum diameter of scrotal veins, the presence of a venous plexus, sum of the diameter of up to six veins of the plexus, and the duration and amplitude of flow change on Valsalva maneuver. To avoid interphysician variation, all patients were examined by one designated senior urologist with the sonographer remaining unaware of the findings.
RESULTS: CDU parameters of 127 testis units in 64 patients were analyzed and compared to the physical findings. Fifty-nine testis units were positive and 57 units were negative for varicocele on physical examination. In 11 testis units, results of physical examination were inconclusive regarding the presence of varicocele. The commonly accepted CDU criterion for varicocele (maximal vein diameter of 3 mm or greater) had a sensitivity of 53% and specificity of 91% compared to physical examination. We developed a new scoring system incorporating the maximal venous diameter (score 0 to 3), the presence of a venous plexus and the sum of the diameters of veins in the plexus (score 0 to 3), and the change of flow on Valsalva maneuver (score 0 to 3). Using a total score of 4 or more to define the presence of CDU-positive varicocele, we observed a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 85% when compared to physical examination. All moderate to large varicoceles found on physical examination were positive by CDU diagnosis using the scoring system, but the same group had only a 68% positive rate by traditional CDU diagnostic criteria.
CONCLUSIONS: Using the proposed new scoring system, CDU has been shown to be a reliable and accurate method of diagnosis for varicoceles compared to the current reference standard physical examination. CDU has the advantages of being able to objectively examine venous plexus and measure blood flow parameters and to be less observer-dependent than physical examination.Medical & Surgical Urology