crsheader Index Hydrocele

What is a hydrocele?

A hydrocele is a build-up of fluid in the scrotum, the sac that holds the testicle. Your child’s scrotum may look larger on one side or may appear very swollen. Hydroceles usually are not painful. This build-up of fluid is fairly common in male newborns. Usually the fluid will be absorbed by the body during the first year of life.

What is the cause?

Before birth, the testicles develop in the abdomen, then come down into the scrotum through a tube called the process vaginalis. Fluid also comes down this tube. Most of the time this tube closes by itself, and the fluid around the testicle gets absorbed and goes away. If the tube does not close properly, fluid can continue to drain into the scrotum. This is called a communicating hydrocele. The reason that the tube does not close is not known.

How is it treated?

If your baby is older than 1 year and still has a hydrocele, or if your doctor has told you that your baby has a communicating hydrocele or an inguinal hernia, your baby will need an operation. (An inguinal hernia is when intestinal contents come down the same open tube,)

The surgery to fix a hydrocele is a relatively minor procedure that is done in day surgery and takes about 1 and 1/2 hours.

When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?

Bring your child in for immediate care if:

  • Your child is having severe and constant scrotal pain.

Call during office hours if:

  • Your son is complaining of minor testicular discomfort.
  • You have questions about the treatment of a hydrocele.

Developed for RelayHealth and edited by Robert Brayden, MD. Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2007-11-19
Last reviewed: 2010-09-20 This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional. References
Pediatric Advisor 2011.4 Index
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