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YOUR HEALTH: One family conceives after microsurgery

MIAMI, Florida – Thousands of couples struggle with infertility.   And while the causes may vary, a common condition that few men have heard of can be blocking their fertility.

"The moment I saw him it was instant love."

Kristine is talking about the day her son J.P. was born: a day she and her husband John thought would never happen after years of trying to conceive.

"The worst part is when people tell you 'you just need to relax, it will happen, don't worry'."

But they did worry, so they both got checked out.

"They did some tests and they said 'you know you have a problem' and it's like 'what?'", said her husband John.

"In fact, most, 50 percent of the time, it is the man's problem," explained Dr. Ranjith Ramasamy, a reproductive urologist at the University of Miami hospital.

He says the most common cause of male infertility is a condition called varicocele.

"This is a condition where the veins around the testes are dilated, the temperature of the testes increases, and affects sperm production."

Because most men have no symptoms, it has to be diagnosed through physical examination.  An injury can be the cause.

"I had a motorcycle accident at the race track back in 2005," John remembered.

Thanks to Dr. Ramasamy, John found out about a procedure using a microscope to reverse the varicocele and open up blood flow to the testes.

"When the veins are tied off, the temperature in the testes cools off, and it takes up to about three months after surgery for the sperm parameters to improve."

Doctors say after the procedure, up to 65% of those couples can go on to conceive naturally.

"About two months later is when we found out we were pregnant," said Kristine.

John and Kristine tell other couples not to give up.   If they had, little J.P. might not be here today.

"He's the light in our lives," gushed Kristine.   "I mean I can't, we can't imagine life without him."

Dr. Ramasamay has performed more than 200 of these procedures with a 97% success rate.

The procedure is covered by most insurance companies.

VARICOCELECTOMY:   Varicocelectomy is a same-day procedure, done under anesthesia.   The procedure ties off the veins that cause this back flow of blood.   The procedure is done to reroute the blood through another venous system that does not have leaks.   Once the veins are tied off, the temperature in the testes cools off.   It takes up to three months after surgery for the sperm parameters to improve.   The recovery is pretty quick, most patients are able to go back to work in about two or three days and are up and about in about 24 hours.   The varicocelectomy can be done either using the open approach or using the microsurgical approach.   At the University of Miami Health System surgeons use the microscope method to fix the varicocele.   Some of the side effects that can happen from the surgery itself are either recurrence; where the veins come back after surgery, damage to the testes, or hydrocele can occur which is fluid build up around the testes.   Using the microscope helps avoid and minimize these side effects.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or  Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.