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Purpose:

We investigated the eventual positive effects of early screening and treatment for varicocele in pubertal boys without symptoms to determine their chance of paternity later in life. It has not been proved if the presence of varicocele during puberty has an influence on later fertility or paternity. However, since an influence is believed to exist, beginning in 1987 the Belgian Society of Pediatrics has recommended screening all boys 12 to 17 years old during their yearly medical examination and referral for followup or treatment if varicocele is detected. At our clinic patients and their parents were informed about and able to choose between varicocele treatment (antegrade sclerotherapy) and observation. We subsequently contacted these patients, who are now older than 30 years, and inquired about their paternity.

Materials and Methods:

We selected for this study pubertal boys 12 to 17 years old with a varicocele who were referred by screening pediatricians to our pediatric urology clinic between 1989 and 2005. We excluded patients with bilateral or unilateral right varicocele and patients with other medical problems that could influence fertility. A total of 661 patients were eligible for the study. Minimally invasive treatment of varicocele, ie antegrade sclerotherapy (with the patient under local or general anesthesia), was offered but not required. Of the patients 372 underwent treatment (mean age 15.3 years, median 15.6) and 289 were followed conservatively (mean age 17.1, median 16.4). All patients were contacted twice by letter and, if no response was received, once by telephone. Patients were asked about paternity, time to conception and whether they had visited a fertility center.

Results:

Of the 361 respondents 158 (43%) had an active desire to have a child. Paternity was achieved in 85% of the conservatively followed group and 78% of the active treatment group (p >0.05).

Conclusions:

There is no beneficial effect of pubertal screening and treatment for varicocele regarding chance of paternity later in life.

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University Hospital Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

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