A common cause of male infertility can easily be treated with a simple outpatient treatment, researchers in Germany have found.
The University of Bonn Medical School's study of varicoceles, published by Dr Sebastian Flacke in the August issue of Radiology, resulted in significantly improved sperm function and pregnancy rates.
Varicoceles is a condition like varicose veins, where the blood vessels in the scrotum become tangled and swollen.
Normally the blood flows from the testicles back to the heart via small veins that have a non-return valve to stop the blood flowing backwards to the testicles.
But if these valves stop working the blood fails to leave the testicles properly and causes the vessels to bulge and swell.
Until recently, men with problematic varicoceles were treated with open surgery to remove the affected blood vessels, but now there is a minimally invasive procedure called catheter immobilisation, which a man can have as an outpatient.
The radiologist inserts a small tube through a tiny cut in the groin and guides the catheter to the affected blood vessel and then blocks it using a platinum coil and a liquid agent. The patient recovers quickly and is usually well enough to go back to work in 24 hours.