The use of scrotal ultrasound in the evaluation of varicoceles: A survey study of reproductive specialists
Keywords:Varicocele, ultrasonography, surveys and questionnaires, male infertility
Introduction: Urologists use ultrasound in the male infertility workup to evaluate scrotal contents and objectively identify varicoceles if their presence is questionable on physical examination. We assessed practice patterns and diagnostic criteria of male reproductive urologists using ultrasound to evaluate varicoceles.
Methods: An anonymous online survey was sent to the Society for Male Reproduction and Urology (SMRU) members. We queried respondents about ultrasonographic criteria and ultrasound techniques employed in varicocele evaluation. Chi-squared was used to determine association between categorical variables.
Results: In total, 110/320 (34.4%) SMRU members responded. Sixty percent of respondents (66/110) reported performing scrotal ultrasound; 92.4 % (61/66) were attending urologists and 87.9% (58/66) completed an andrology fellowship. A total of 37.9% (25/66) performed their own ultrasound, while the remainder had ultrasound performed by an alternate practitioner. Among those performing their own ultrasound, 95.5% (21/22) measured varicocele venous diameter compared to 76% (29/38) when another practitioner performed the ultrasound. Venous diameter used to define a varicocele ranged from 2–4 mm. Although 80% (49/61) of respondents assessed retrograde flow during ultrasound, only 52.5% reported that retrograde flow was required for varicocele diagnosis. Almost all (60/61) indicated they would fix palpable varicoceles in patients with abnormal semen parameters. Fewer (42.6%, 26/61) respondents stated they would repair varicoceles found exclusively on ultrasound.
Conclusions: Ultrasound is commonly employed by male reproductive urologists to diagnose varicoceles. We identified that practitioners use various ultrasonographic criteria and techniques for varicocele diagnosis. Study limitations include recall bias and high degree of specialization among respondents.
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