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Male reproductive organs

Alternative Names 
processus vaginalis

A hydrocoele is a collection of fluid around the testicle.

What is going on in the body? 
A hydrocoele may be present at birth or may develop later in life. Most often, a parent notices a swelling in a child's scrotum caused by the hydrocoele. The fluid that fills the hydrocoele is normally present in the abdomen. It seeps through a balloon-like structure around the testicle called the tunica vaginalis. The neck of this balloon runs along a structure in both of the testes called the spermatic cord and opens into the abdomen. Normally, this neck is sealed off before birth. If it fails to close, fluid continues to seep through and cause scrotal swelling.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
A painless swelling in the scrotum is a sign of a hydrocoele. It may occur on one or both sides.

What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
Hydrocoeles are more common among premature babies. They develop when the canal between the peritoneal cavity and scrotum fails to close. An inflammation or injury to a testicle may cause a hydrocoele.

What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Boys and men should wear an athletic cup that protects the scrotum when playing sports such as cricket and football. Sports safety guidelines can help prevent injury to the testicles. Since hydrocoeles are more common among premature infants, antenatal care is important to prevent premature birth of a baby.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
During a physical examination, a doctor will find a mass within the scrotum. The fluid in the hydrocoele is clear, so a light can be shined through the scrotum. The outline of the testicle will be visible. An ultrasound may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
If the hydrocoele has a big enough opening to let fluid flow in and out, a hernia can occur. When this happens, a piece of the bowel may come down into the scrotum. If the piece of bowel gets stuck outside the abdomen, its blood supply may be cut off and it may die.

What are the risks to others? 
This condition is not contagious, so there are no risks to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
A hydrocoele normally repairs itself within a few months after birth. Surgery is recommended if the hydrocoele is still present after a baby is 12 to 18 months old. Hydrocoele repair is also done for hydrocoeles that continue to get larger.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Complications may occur with any surgery. These include: What happens after treatment for the condition? 
Rarely, a child may develop another hydrocoele that requires more surgery. Most people recover fully after surgery.

How is the condition monitored? 
If surgery is done, a follow-up visit will be scheduled with the surgeon. If surgery is not needed, the size of the hydrocoele should be monitored. If the hydrocoele contiunes to get larger, surgery may be necessary.

Author: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.

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