Improvement of sperm count and motility after ligation of varicoceles detected with colour Doppler ultrasonography

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The debate regarding the efficacy of varicocele ligation for improvement of semen parameters and pregnancy rates is ongoing. In addition, no consensus exists as to the benefit of treatment of subclinical varicoceles. The aim of this study was to investigate, retrospectively, the effect of high ligation of both subclinical and clinical varicoceles on sperm count and motility. The value of several factors from history-taking and physical examination for the prediction of successful varicocelectomy was analysed. A total of 139 patients, operated on for a unilateral varicocele on the left side, were studied. Varicoceles were subclinical in 73 patients, based on colour Doppler ultrasonography, and 66 varicoceles were clinical, based on palpation in addition to ultrasonography. Comparison of semen parameters before and after surgery revealed a significant improvement. The median sperm count increased from 10.0 to 14.7, and from 18.2 to 28.6 million/ejaculate, in patients with subclinical and clinical varicoceles, respectively (p < 0.001). The percentage improvement in median sperm count in subclinical varicoceles was not statistically different from the improvement in clinical varicoceles. Mean progressive motility improved significantly after ligation (p < 0.001). The improvement in motility in subclinical varicoceles, from 16 to 23%, was significantly larger than the 24 to 27% improvement in clinical varicoceles. The increase in sperm count was related positively to testicular volume before surgery (p < 0.05). The increase in sperm motility was significantly lower in patients with a history of cryptorchidism (n = 22, p < 0.05). The present data show that ligation of varicoceles detected using Doppler ultrasonography, whether palpable or not, results in an increase in sperm concentration and motility.

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