OBJECTIVE: After varicocelectomy a wide range of recurrence rates have been reported from 0 to 18%, and rates of post-operative hydrocele formation between 0 and 29%. Controversy exists as to the appropriate approach for varicocele treatment, whether open, laparoscopic, or percutaneous embolization (PE) is best for young men. The literature on treatment of adolescent varicocele is limited to high-volume single surgeon, single institution, or small multi-institution series. Our goal was to evaluate the retreatment and complication rates from numerous institutions to determine more generalizable results.
STUDY DESIGN: The Faculty Practice Solutions Center database was queried to identify males under age 19 years with a diagnosis and/or treatment of varicocele between January 2009 and December 2012. Patients were followed until December 2013 (1-5 years follow-up) to determine if they had occurrence of outcome variables: retreatment, diagnosis, or treatment of hydrocele. Associations of the variables age, race, insurance type, geographical region, surgeon-volume, and surgical approach, with outcome variables were analyzed using a mixed-effects Cox proportional hazard model.
RESULTS: Of 6,729 patients with a diagnosis of varicocele, 1,036 underwent open (405), laparoscopic (530), or percutaneous embolization (PE) (101) treatment by 213 physicians. Retreatment rates after open, laparoscopic, and PE treatments were 1.5%, 3.4% and 9.9%, respectively. Race, region, insurance type, and age were not independently associated with outcomes. The incidence of hydrocele after open, laparoscopic, and PE treatments was 4.9%, 8.1%, and 5%, respectively. No approach was independently associated with diagnosis or treatment of hydrocele. Young age was associated with a significantly higher rate of hydrocele formation. For each year of age, there was a 14% decreased rate of hydrocele formation.
DISCUSSION: Although this series contains the largest cohort of patients, physicians, and institutions, we were limited by the inability to determine actual recurrence rates. Only patients receiving retreatment at the same institution within the 1-5 year follow-up period were captured. As such, the true rate of varicocele recurrence may be higher. The retreatment rate is influenced by the physician's threshold to retreat and the patient's desire to undergo another procedure. Despite its limitations, this is the first study to compare open, laparoscopic, and percutaneous approaches to varicocele treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Percutaneous embolization has a significantly higher retreatment rate compared with either open or laparoscopic varicocelectomy. Retreatment and hydrocele formation after open and laparoscopic approaches were not significantly different. This supports a surgeon and family choosing an approach based on patient characteristics and surgeon preference.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health