Varicocelectomy is surgery to repair a varicocele. A varicocele is swelling of veins in the scrotum. This swelling is due to blood backing up in the veins. A varicocele can cause pain or a heavy feeling in the scrotum but is usually painless. It can also cause problems with fertility. During the surgery, the swollen veins are cut and the ends are closed off. Other veins in the groin area then take over carrying the blood supply. The surgery may be done with a method called laparoscopy or through open surgery. During laparoscopy, a thin, lighted tube or scope (called a laparoscope) is used. The scope allows the doctor to work through a few small incisions.
Preparing for surgery
Prepare for the surgery as you’ve been told. In addition:
Tell your doctor about all medicines you take. This includes prescription medicines and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, herbs, and other supplements. It also includes any blood thinners, such as warfarin, clopidogrel, or daily aspirin. You may need to stop taking some or all of them before surgery.
Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before surgery. This includes coffee, water, gum, and mints. (If you have been instructed to take medicines, take them with a small sip of water.)
The day of surgery
This surgery takes 2 to 3 hours. You’ll likely go home the same day.
Before the surgery begins:
An IV (intravenous) line is put into a vein in your arm or hand. This supplies fluids and medicine (such as antibiotics).
You may be given a medicine to prevent blood clots.
To keep you pain-free during the surgery, you’re given general anesthesia. This medicine puts you into a deep sleeplike state trough the surgery. A tube may be inserted into your throat to help you breathe.
A thin tube (catheter) is placed in your bladder to drain urine.
During the surgery:
The doctor makes a few small incisions in the belly (abdomen).
The scope is placed through one of the incisions. It sends live pictures of the inside of the abdomen to a video screen.
The abdomen is filled with gas. This makes space for the doctor to see and work.
Using tools placed through the other incisions, the swollen veins are cut. The ends may be sealed with tiny clips. Or the ends may be cauterized.
When the surgery is complete, all tools are removed. The incisions are closed with stitches or staples.
The doctor will begin with laparoscopy. But he or she may need to change to open surgery for safety reasons. Open surgery is done using an incision in the abdomen or the groin. You’ll be told more about this possibility before surgery.
After the surgery
You’ll be taken to a recovery room to rest until the anesthesia wears off. You may feel sleepy and nauseated. If a breathing tube was used, your throat might be sore at first. You’ll be given medicines to manage any pain. The catheter will be removed from your bladder. When you’re ready to go home, you’ll be released to an adult family member or friend.
Recovering at home
Have someone help you at home as your healing begins. Follow all the instructions you’ve been given. Make sure to:
Take all medicines as directed.
Care for your incisions as instructed.
Apply ice or a cold compress to the scrotum for 10 minutes at a time for the first 48 hours. This helps reduce swelling.
Follow your doctor’s guidelines for showering. Don't swim, take a bath, use a hot tub, or do other activities that cause the incision to be covered with water until your doctor says it’s OK.
Not have sex for 1 to 2 weeks.
Not do any heavy lifting and other strenuous activities, as directed.
Not drive until your doctor says it’s OK. Don’t drive if you’re taking medicines that make you drowsy or sleepy.
Not strain to pass stool. If needed, take stool softeners as directed by your doctor.
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of the following:
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Symptoms of infection at an incision site, such as increased redness or swelling, warmth, worsening pain, or foul-smelling drainage
Pain that cannot be controlled with medicines
Swelling in the scrotum that doesn’t go away
Trouble passing urine
Nausea or vomiting that won’t go away
Pain or swelling in the legs
Call 911 if you have chest pain or trouble breathing.
You’ll have follow-up visits so your doctor can check how well you’re healing. If your stitches or staples need to be removed, this will likely be done in 7 days. If you’re concerned about your fertility, a sample of your semen can be checked in about 3 to 4 months. This helps see if the number and quality of your sperm have improved.
Risks and possible complications
Bleeding, blood clots
Return of the varicocele
Failure to restore fertility
Fluid around a testicle (hydrocele)
Shrinking (atrophy) of a testicle
Damage to nearby nerves, blood vessels, or organs (including the intestine)
Short-term (temporary) decrease in sperm count
Risks of anesthesia. The anesthesiologist will discuss these with you.
September 02, 2017
Adler, Liora C., MD,Hanrahan, John, MD,Image reviewed by StayWell medical illustration team.