What is a varicocele?
A varicocele is a varicose vein of the testicle and scrotum that may cause pain and shrinking of the testicles. In healthy veins of the scrotum, a one-way valve allows blood to flow from the testicles and scrotum back to the heart. In a varicocele, the one-way valve has failed resulting in pooled blood and enlarged veins around the testicle.
What is Varicocele Embolization?
The enlarged veins found in a varicocele can be treated using embolization. In embolization a small tube called a catheter is inserted in the groin area or neck and guided to the blood vessels that deliver blood to the testicle. Once the catheter is in place, Dr. Christenson may place coils to block blood flow through the veins. He will then use a solution called a sclerosant to collapse the veins. Embolization usually takes 1 to 3 hours.
What are the side effects of varicocele embolization?
There are some side effects associated with embolization. These side effects may include groin cramps, scrotal pain, mild nausea, and low-grade fever. These symptoms typically only last 24-48 hours.
What needs to be done to get ready for embolization?
We will contact you the day before your procedure to review important instructions and answer any questions you may have.
- It is important that we know if you have ever had a reaction to contrast (x-ray dye).
- If you take blood-thinning medicines like Coumadin, Lovenox, or Plavix, we may ask you to stop taking those medicines 3 to 9 days before your procedure. We will give you instructions on this.
Before your procedure you will be given a sedative medication through your IV. The medication may make you sleepy and will help to reduce any discomfort you may have during the procedure.
For some people staying awake for the procedure may be difficult or not possible. These people may need anesthesia (medicines to make you sleep during the procedure). Let us know right away if you:
- Have needed anesthesia for basic procedures in the past
- Have sleep apnea or chronic breathing problems (you might use a CPAP or BiPAP device while sleeping)
- Use high doses of narcotic painkiller
- Have severe heart, lung, or kidney disease
- Cannot lie flat for about 2 to 3 hours because of back or breathing problems
- Have a hard time lying still during medical procedures
Preparing for your procedure
- Do not eat or drink starting at 10 pm the day before your procedure.
- Take all of your medicines on the day of your procedure. Do NOT skip them unless we instruct you do to so.
- Bring a list of all of your medicines you take with you.
- If there is a delay in getting your procedure started it is usually because we need to treat other people with unexpected or emergency problems. Thank you for your patience if this occurs.
- A nurse or medical assistant will give you a hospital gown to put on and a bag for your belongings. Please do not bring valuable items with you.
- You may use the restroom at any time, just let the nurse know.
- An intravenous (IV) line will be started. You will be given fluids and medicine through the IV.
- Dr. Christenson will talk with you about the procedure and ask you to sign a consent form if that has not already been done. You may ask any questions you have at any time.
What happens after the procedure?
- After your procedure you will be taken to Surgery Plus where the nurses will monitor your vital signs.
- You will need to rest in bed for 2 to 4 hours. The nurses will monitor the puncture site for bleeding.
- When you are fully awake, able to eat, use the restroom and walk, you will be able to go home.
- Before you leave the hospital, your nurse will tell you what activities you can do, how to take care of your incision, and other important instructions.
- You may shower 24 hours after your procedure.
- Avoid strenuous activity including heavy lifting (anything over 20 lbs) for 3 days after your procedure.
- Most people can return to their normal activities within 1 week.