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Having Varicocele Embolization

Front view of male genitals showing penis, veins, and varicocele.

A varicocele is a swelling in the veins above a man's testicles. It may cause pain, swelling, or make you unable to have a child (infertility). Varicocele embolization is a procedure to treat the enlarged vein. Your healthcare provider will use a long thin tube (catheter) and a tiny coil or medicine to block blood flow to the varicocele. The blood will then flow in the veins around the blocked vein. The varicocele will go away.

How to say it

VAR-ih-koe-seel

What to tell your healthcare provider

Tell him or her about your health history and all the medicines you take. This includes prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines such as aspirin and ibuprofen. It also includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. And tell your provider if you:

  • Have had any recent changes in your health, such as an infection or fever

  • Are sensitive or allergic to any medicines, latex, tape, contrast dyes, or anesthetic medicines (local and general)

Tests before your procedure

Before your procedure, a healthcare provider will examine you and ask questions about your health history. This includes an exam of your scrotum and testes. He or she may also check your heart and lungs. You may have some tests such as an ultrasound exam of your scrotum and testes. This test lets your healthcare provider see the varicocele.

Getting ready for your procedure

Talk with your healthcare provider about how to get ready for your procedure. You may need to stop taking some medicines before the procedure, such as blood thinners and aspirin. If you smoke, you may need to stop before your procedure. Smoking can delay healing. Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help to stop smoking.

Also make sure to do the following:

  • Ask a responsible family member or friend to take you home from the hospital

  • Don't eat or drink after midnight the night before your surgery

  • Follow all other instructions from your healthcare provider

You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure. Before you sign, read the form carefully. Ask questions if something is not clear.

On the day of your procedure

Your procedure will be done by an interventional radiologist. This is a doctor who specializes in image-guided procedures. He or she will work with a team of specialized nurses. Ask your doctor about the details of your procedure. The whole procedure may take a few hours. In general, you can expect the following:

  • You will be given medicine (sedation) to make you relaxed, comfortable, and sleepy during the procedure.

  • A healthcare provider will watch your vital signs during the surgery. This includes your heart rate and blood pressure.

  • You will receive a shot (injection) of numbing medicine (local anesthesia) in your upper thigh. The medicine will stop pain during the procedure.

  • Your healthcare provider will clean the area. He or she will then put a needle into a vein in your thigh. He or she will put a thin, narrow tube (catheter) into the vein.

  • X-rays will be used during the procedure. These are to help your healthcare provider move the tube to the correct place in your scrotum. He or she may add dye (contrast material) into the vein to make the X-ray pictures better. You may feel some warmth when this is used.

  • Your healthcare provider will use the catheter to put a small coil or a special liquid into the affected vein. This is called a blocking agent.

  • The catheter will then be removed. A bandage will be placed over the area where the needle was put in your thigh.

After your procedure

Your vital signs will be watched after the procedure. You will feel sleepy when you wake up. You will likely be able to go home that same day.

Recovering at home

After the procedure:

  • You may have a little pain. Your healthcare provider will tell you what to do to reduce the pain.

  • If you were given medicine to help you relax, you should not drive or make any important decisions for at least 24 hours.

  • You should be able to return to your normal activities in 1 to 2 days.

  • Stay away from heavy activities for 7 to 10 days or as advised by your provider.

Follow-up care

Make sure you follow up with your healthcare provider after the procedure. If you were having problems with infertility, he or she may check your semen. You may need to have an additional procedure if the varicocele returns.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

  • Warmth, redness, swelling, or bleeding where the needle was put in your thigh

  • Pain that gets worse even after using pain medicines as prescribed

Online Medical Reviewer: Marc Greenstein MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2019
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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