The testes are the paired male genital organs that contain sperm, cells that produce and nourish sperm (spermatogonia and Sertoli cells, respectively), and cells that produce testosterone (Leydig cells). The testes are located in a sac called the scrotum. The epididymis is a small tubular structure attached to the testes that serves as a storage reservoir wherein sperm mature.
Sperm travel through the vas deferens, which connects the epididymis to the prostate gland. The vas deferens is in the scrotum and is part of a larger tissue bundle called the spermatic cord. The spermatic cord contains the vas deferens, blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic channels.
The pampiniform plexus is composed of the veins of the spermatic cord. These veins drain blood from the testes, epididymis, and vas deferens and eventually become the spermatic veins that drain into the main circulation of the kidneys. The pampiniform venous plexus may become tortuous and dilated, much like a varicose vein in the leg. In fact, a scrotal varicocele is simply a varicose enlargement of the pampiniform plexus above and around the testicle. Two other veins, the cremasteric and the deferential, also drain blood from the testicles; however, they are rarely involved in the varicocele process.
The image below illustrates the basic anatomy.
A large varicocele is seen through the scrotal skin. In a patient with a varicocele, the dilated vessels of the pampiniform plexus are easily appreciated within the scrotum.
Opinions vary regarding the value of repairing subclinical varicoceles in infertile men, but most experts do not recommend it. In addition, discovery of a varicocele at the time of vasectomy or vasectomy reversal is a relative contraindication to immediate repair. A 6-month delayed repair is recommended to allow the development of collateral vessels in order to decrease the chance of vascular compromise to the testicle.