Pediatric Hydrocele

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP
    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    David Perlstein, MD, MBA, FAAP

    Dr. Perlstein received his Medical Degree from the University of Cincinnati and then completed his internship and residency in pediatrics at The New York Hospital, Cornell medical Center in New York City. After serving an additional year as Chief Pediatric Resident, he worked as a private practitioner and then was appointed Director of Ambulatory Pediatrics at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx.

Quiz: Your Baby's First Year!

Non-communicating hydroceles

Non-communicating hydroceles may also be present at birth or develop as a boy matures. In a non-communicating hydrocele the tail end of the process vaginalis has closed appropriately. The fluid surrounding the testicle is created by the lining cells of the process vaginalis and is unable to either drain or be reabsorbed efficiently and thus accumulates. Since this fluid is walled off, the size of the hydrocele is generally stable and does not reflect intra abdominal pressure.

How are hydroceles diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a hydrocele is generally made clinically. An apt description of a hydrocele surrounding a palpable (something that can be felt) testis would be that of a small water balloon containing a peanut. The differences between communicating and non-communicating hydroceles described above help to support the suspected diagnosis.

A bedside test, transillumination, provides confirmation of the condition. Transillumination involves placing a small light source (commonly an otoscope - the medical device used to examine the ear) against the swollen scrotum. The fluid filled nature of the hydrocele side is distinctly different from the non-involved side of the scrotum. In rare cases either ultrasound or X-ray study of the region may be indicated. In unusual cases where a hydrocele may be a secondary phenomenon to pathologic cause (caused by disease), surgical exploration may be necessary to establish the diagnosis.

What is the treatment for hydroceles?

In 95% of congenital (present at birth) hydroceles, the natural history is one of gradual and complete resolution by one year of age. For those lasting longer than one year or for those non-communicating hydroceles that manifest after the first year, surgical repair is indicated since these rarely resolve spontaneously.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015
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