Diseases and conditions

Male infertility due to varicocele

What is male infertility due to varicocele?

A varicocele (VAR-ih-koe-seel) is an enlargement of veins within the scrotum (the loose pouch of skin that holds the testicles). Veins contain one-way valves that allow blood to flow from the testicles and scrotum back to the heart. When the valves do not work, the blood pools in the veins. Pooling of blood in these veins causes them to enlarge. The internal pressure and temperature may increase, possibly damaging the testicles and decreasing fertility.

Varicoceles can be diagnosed with one of three tests:

  • A physical exam
  • An ultrasound
  • A digital subtraction angiography venography


Interventional radiologists are leaders of minimally invasive, catheter-based treatments. These methods are often less painful, better tolerated and have quicker recovery time than conventional surgery. Varicocele embolization is one such treatment.

Varicocele Embolization

Varicocele embolization (also known as “catheter-directed embolization”) is a minimally invasive treatment performed by interventional radiologists. First, a tiny incision is made in the groin. Next, a thin catheter, resembling a strand of spaghetti, is passed through the vein and directed towards the varicoceles. The interventional radiologist injects X-ray dye to better see the veins. After locating the varicoceles, the interventional radiologist injects tiny coils to prevent blood flow to the varicoceles, reducing the pressure in the veins.

Throughout the treatment, the patient is awake but relaxed and pain free. Patients are observed for approximately 2-3 hours after the treatment before being discharged home on the same day.