Outcome of assisted reproductive technology in men with treated and untreated varicocele: systematic review and meta-analysis

Varicocele affects approximately 35%-40% of men presenting for an infertility evaluation. There is fair evidence indicating that surgical repair of clinical varicocele improves semen parameters, decreases seminal oxidative stress and sperm DNA fragmentation, and increases the chances of natural conception. However, it is unclear whether performing varicocelectomy in men with clinical varicocele prior to assisted reproductive technology (ART) improve treatment outcomes. The objective of this study was to evaluate the role of varicocelectomy on ART pregnancy outcomes in nonazoospermic infertile men with clinical varicocele. An electronic search was performed to collect all evidence that fitted our eligibility criteria using the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases until April 2015. Four retrospective studies were included, all of which involved intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and accounted for 870 cycles (438 subjected to ICSI with prior varicocelectomy, and 432 without prior varicocelectomy). There was a significant increase in the clinical pregnancy rates (OR = 1.59, 95% CI: 1.19-2.12, I2 = 25%) and live birth rates (OR = 2.17, 95% CI: 1.55-3.06, I2 = 0%) in the varicocelectomy group compared to the group subjected to ICSI without previous varicocelectomy. Our results indicate that performing varicocelectomy in patients with clinical varicocele prior to ICSI is associated with improved pregnancy outcomes.