What is varicocele embloization?

Varicocele embolization is a treatment for varicoceles, varicose veins in the scrotum. It is an outpatient procedure performed with local anesthesia and light sedation. Varicoceles can cause pain, swelling and infertility. Interventional radiologists intentionally block a blood vessel to divert blood flow. Varicocele embolization safely relieves pain and swelling and may improve sperm quality. The recovery time is shorter with embolization than with surgery.

How should I prepare for a varicocele embolization?

The patient should inform the physician of an allergy to an iodinated contrast agent before the procedure. For 6 hours before the procedure, patients should not eat or drink. The patient may be given a mild sedative before the procedure.

What can I expect during this procedure?

The interventional radiologist cleanses the skin above the insertion point, and applies a local anesthetic. Intravenous sedation is typically given. During the procedure, the radiologist takes venograms to see the catheter moving through the blood vessels. Because there are no nerve endings in blood vessels, the patient is unable able to feel the catheter. Once the catheter is properly positioned, the radiologist deploys embolic agents to block the vein. Steel or platinum coils are most commonly used, although some physicians prefer liquid agents that harden the veins. After the vessel has been successfully blocked, the catheter is removed and pressure is applied to prevent bleeding. No stitches are needed. Varicocele embolization takes approximately 30 to 40 minutes.

What should I expect after this procedure?

The patient is monitored for a few hours and released. The patient should be driven home. Most patients resume normal activities within 24 hours of the procedure.

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