Vol. 44 (3): 563-576, May – June, 2018
Antonio Marte 1
1 Unità di Chirurgia Pediatrica, Università della Campania – Luigi Vanvitelli, Napoli, Italia
Men have most likely been affected by varicocele since the assumption of the upright position. In De Medicina, written during the first century AD, Celsus credits the Greeks with the first description of a varicocele, and he recorded his own acute observation: “The veins are swollen and twisted over the testicle, which becomes smaller”. Celsus himself is credited with the distinction between varicocele (dilation of surface veins) and “cirsocele” (dilation of deep veins). There has been a long history of treatment attempts and failures, some of which are remarkably strange, that have sometimes culminated in tragedy, as in the case of French professor Jacques-Mathieu Delpech (1772- 1832). Although some questions regarding the etiopathology and treatment of varicocele remain unanswered, a succession of more or less conservative attempts involving all medical cultures has been performed throughout history. The report by W.S. Tulloch in 1952 brought varicocele into the era of modern evidence-based medicine, and varicocele surgery finally progressed beyond the aim of merely relieving scrotal pain and swelling. From 1970 to 2000, varicocelectomies gained worldwide attention for the treatment of male infertility. Several innovative procedures to correct varicoceles began to appear in the world’s literature as interventional radiology, microsurgery, laparoscopy, and robotics, while comprehensive review articles were also published on the subject of varicocelectomies. Microsurgery is nowadays used worldwide and it can be considered to be the gold standard for correcting infertility linked to varicocele.
Keywords: Varicocele; history of medicine