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What Is a Varicocelectomy?

During a varicoelectomy enlarged veins are removed from the scrotum.
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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 23 October 2014
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A varicocelectomy is a type of surgery performed to remove a varicocele. A varicocele is a group of enlarged veins in the scrotum. They are similar to varicose veins, developing because of valve failure—the reverse flow of blood and pooling of blood in the veins. Usually, a varicocele isn't harmful and won't affect a man's ability to father children, but it can be painful. If a man is experiencing persistent pain or there’s a risk of damage to a testicle, a doctor may recommend surgery to remove the mass of dilated veins.

To perform a varicocelectomy, a doctor typically makes a cut into the patient’s groin area and ties off the veins of the varicocele, stopping the flow of blood to the area. Blood flow is then directed to remaining, healthy veins. The procedure may be done using general anesthesia to put the patient to sleep or local anesthesia that numbs the area. Risks involved with varicocelectomy include infection, excess bleeding and adverse reactions to the anesthetic. It’s also possible fluid will collect around the patient’s testicle, which is a condition called a hydrocele.

Doctors have alternatives to using surgery as treatment for a varicocele. Instead of making an incision in a patient’s groin, a doctor may insert a thin tube, called a catheter, into a vein in the groin area. Then, using x-rays to locate the varicocele, the doctor will inject substances into the veins that block blood flow to the varicocele.

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There is typically no need for an overnight stay in the hospital when a man has a varicocelectomy. A doctor can perform the procedure and send the patient home to recover. A varicocelectomy patient can expect to experience some pain after the surgery, which is typically managed with painkillers the doctor prescribes. Swelling may be managed with ice packs. The patient may be directed to wear a supportive device during recovery as well.

Pain or discomfort from a varicocelectomy should only last for a few weeks. Varicocelectomy patients typically have to avoid strenuous activity for about four weeks following treatment. Patents are often advised to avoid baths for about five days after surgery; showers are recommended instead.

Varicocelectomy patients should be aware of the signs of possible complications following treatment. If a patient has difficulty urinating or develops a fever after surgery, he should call his doctor. Likewise, repeated episodes of vomiting, pain that isn’t controlled using medication, and yellow drainage from the incision site warrant contact with a doctor.

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