PURPOSE: Varicocele is a common problem among infertile men. Varicocele repair (VR) is frequently performed to improve semen parameters and the chances of pregnancy. However, there is a lack of consensus about the diagnosis, indications for VR and its outcomes. The aim of this study was to explore global practice patterns on the management of varicocele in the context of male infertility.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Sixty practicing urologists/andrologists from 23 countries contributed 382 multiple-choice-questions pertaining to varicocele management. These were condensed into an online questionnaire that was forwarded to clinicians involved in male infertility management through direct invitation. The results were analyzed for disagreement and agreement in practice patterns and, compared with the latest guidelines of international professional societies (American Urological Association [AUA], American Society for Reproductive Medicine [ASRM], and European Association of Urology [EAU]), and with evidence emerging from recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Additionally, an expert opinion on each topic was provided based on the consensus of 16 experts in the field.
RESULTS: The questionnaire was answered by 574 clinicians from 59 countries. The majority of respondents were urologists/uro-andrologists. A wide diversity of opinion was seen in every aspect of varicocele diagnosis, indications for repair, choice of technique, management of sub-clinical varicocele and the role of VR in azoospermia. A significant proportion of the responses were at odds with the recommendations of AUA, ASRM, and EAU. A large number of clinical situations were identified where no guidelines are available.
CONCLUSIONS: This study is the largest global survey performed to date on the clinical management of varicocele for male infertility. It demonstrates: 1) a wide disagreement in the approach to varicocele management, 2) large gaps in the clinical practice guidelines from professional societies, and 3) the need for further studies on several aspects of varicocele management in infertile men.