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Treatment of varicocele in children and adolescents: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of varicoceles is as high as 15% in children and adolescents. Optimal management of varicoceles has not been consolidated. Options include observation, radiological intervention, or surgical varicocelectomy.

OBJECTIVE: Herein, we aim to assess the outcomes of radiological and surgical interventions for varicocele in children and adolescents evaluated by RCTs.

STUDY DESIGN: The study subjects were children and adolescents up to 21 years old, diagnosed with varicocele and allocated to receive either "surgical or radiological intervention" or "no treatment".

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We searched MEDLINE and EMBASE (Ovid platform), Web of Science, CINAHL, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Google Scholar,, and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform for RCTs reporting on varicocele treatment in children and adolescents up to June 23, 2016. Only RCTs with patients aged under 21 years were included. Main outcomes of interest included changes in testicular size, semen analysis parameters, surgical adverse events and failures.

RESULTS: Nine eligible studies were included in the systematic review. Meta-analysis based on available outcomes data demonstrated an improvement in testicular volume (mean difference 3.18 mL, 95% CI 1.94-4.42) and in sperm count (mean difference 25.54 × 106 /mL, 95% CI 12.84-38.25) in patients who underwent radiological or surgical treatment compared with conservative management.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on current available randomized controlled trials, there is low to moderate level of evidence that radiological or surgical treatment of adolescent varicocele is associated with improved testicular size/growth and sperm concentration. The ultimate effects on fertility and paternity rates are not known.

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