Hydrocele testis

Hydrocele testis
The right testis, exposed by laying open the tunica vaginalis. (Tunica vaginalis is labeled at upper right.)
Classification and external resources
Specialty urology
ICD-10 N43.0-N43.3
ICD-9-CM 603
DiseasesDB 6137
eMedicine emerg/256 med/2778 ped/1037
MeSH D006848

A hydrocele testis is an accumulation of clear fluid in the tunica vaginalis, the most internal of membranes containing a testicle. A primary hydrocele causes a painless enlargement in the scrotum on the affected side and is thought to be due to the defective absorption of fluid secreted between the two layers of the tunica vaginalis (investing membrane). A secondary hydrocele is secondary to either inflammation or a neoplasm in the testis.

A hydrocele usually occurs on one side, but can also affect both sides. The accumulation can be a marker of physical trauma, infection, tumor or varicocele surgery,[1] but the cause is generally unknown. Indirect inguinal hernia indicates increased risk of hydrocele.

Hydrocele is normally seen in infant boys, as enlarged scrotum. In infant girls it appears as enlarged labia. However, hydrocele is more common in boys than girls.


During embryogenesis, the testis descends through the inguinal canal, drawing a diverticulum of peritoneum into the scrotum as it descends. This peritoneal tissue is known as the processus vaginalis. Normally, the communication between the processus vaginalis and the peritoneum is obliterated, and the tunica vaginalis is the tissue that remains overlying the testis and the epididymis. Congenital hydrocele results when the processus vaginalis remains patent, allowing fluid from the peritoneum to accumulate in the scrotum.


A hydrocele feels like a small fluid-filled balloon inside the scrotum. It is smooth, and is mainly in front of the testis. Hydroceles will vary greatly in size and are normally painless and harmless. However, as the fluid continues to accumulate and the scrotum further enlarges, more discomfort can be expected. Large hydroceles will cause discomfort because of their size. Sometimes pain can be in both testicles as pressure from the enlarged area puts pressure against the unaffected area which can cause discomfort to the normal testicle. It has also been found to decrease a man's sex drive and makes him less active for fear of enlarging the mass. As the fluid of a hydrocele is transparent, light shone through the hydrocelic region will be visible from the other side. This phenomenon is called transillumination.

Symptoms of a hydrocele can easily be distinguished from testicular cancer, as a hydrocele is soft and fluidy, where a testicular cancer feels hard and rough.

Through diagnostic ultrasound the accumulation of fluids can be diagnosed correctly.


The fluid accumulation can be drained by aspiration, but this may be only temporary. A more permanent alternative is a surgical procedure, generally an outpatient ambulatory (same-day) procedure, called a hydrocelectomy. There are two surgical techniques available for hydrocelectomy.

Hydrocelectomy with Excision of the Hydrocele Sac
Incision of the hydrocele sac after complete mobilization of the hydrocele. Partial resection of the hydrocele sac, leaving a margin of 1–2 cm. Care is taken not to injure testicular vessels, epididymis or ductus deferens. The edge of the hydrocele sac is oversewn for haemostasis (von Bergmann's technique) or the edges are sewn together behind the spermatic cord (Winkelmann's or Jaboulay's technique). Hydrocele surgery with excision of the hydrocele sac is useful for large or thick-walled hydroceles and multilocular hydroceles.
Hydrocele Surgery with Plication of the Hydrocele Sac
The hydrocele is opened with a small skin incision without further preparation. The hydrocele sac is reduced (plicated) by suture Hydrocele surgery: Lord's technique. The plication technique is suitable for medium-sized and thin-walled hydroceles. The advantage of the plication technique is the minimized dissection with a reduced complication rate.[2]

If the hydrocele is not surgically removed, it may continue to grow. The hydrocele fluid can be aspirated. This procedure can be done in a urologist's office or clinic and is less invasive but, recurrence rates are high.[3] Sclerotherapy, the injection of a solution following aspiration of the hydrocele fluid may increase success rates.[4] In many patients, the procedure of aspiration and sclerotherapy is repeated as the hydrocele recurs.[5]


A hydrocele testis is not generally thought to affect fertility. However, it may be indicative of other factors that may affect fertility.

Jason Bateman in The Change-Up features hydrocele testes,[6] despite the term is not used, stating "One of Dave's balls feels like two balls — it's like you have three balls, you have a bouquet of balls".

In the British comedy series Peep Show, there are numerous references to the unusual appearance of Mark Corrigan's testicles; it is eventually revealed that this is due to a "large hydrocele".


  1. C, Esposito. "Incidence and management of hydrocele following varicocele surgery in children". Pubmed. US National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  2. Ku u.a. 2001 KU, J. H. ; KIM, M. E. ; LEE, N. K. ; PARK, Y. H.:The excisional, plication and internal drainage techniques: a comparison of the results for idiopathic hydrocele.In: BJU Int 87 (2001), Nr. 1, S. 82–4
  3. Fracchia, JA; Armenakas, NA; Kohan, AD (1998). "Cost-effective hydrocele ablation". The Journal of Urology. 159 (3): 864–7. doi:10.1016/S0022-5347(01)63755-8. PMID 9474170.
  4. Beiko, DT; Kim, D; Morales, A (2003). "Aspiration and sclerotherapy versus hydrocelectomy for treatment of hydroceles". Urology. 61 (4): 708–12. doi:10.1016/S0090-4295(02)02430-5. PMID 12670550.
  5. Shan, CJ; Lucon, AM; Arap, S. (2003). "A Comparative study of sclerotherapy with phenol and surgical treatment for hydrocele". J Urol. 169 (3): 1056–9. doi:10.1097/01.ju.0000052680.03705.40. PMID 12576845.
  6. Debbie Michaud. "HyThe Change-Up is a lot funnier than you'd think".
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