Scrotal abnormalities

Last updated: April 27, 2022

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Scrotal abnormalities include various conditions such as varicoceles, hydroceles, and malpositioning of the testicles (e.g., cryptorchidism, retractile testes). The most common congenital anomaly is cryptorchidism, which involves the incomplete descent of the testicle into the scrotum. The testicle may be located within the abdominal cavity, inguinal canal, or at the external inguinal ring. Cryptorchidism is associated with an increased risk of infertility and/or testicular cancer; therefore, early diagnosis and initiation of medical or surgical treatment are essential. Retractile testes usually do not require surgical intervention. A varicocele is the abnormal dilation of the pampiniform vessels within the scrotum. Patients may complain of a dull, aching, and swollen scrotum (typically on the left). A “bag of worms” sensation may be palpable at the apex of the scrotum. Surgery is required in complicated cases (i.e. concurrent testicular atrophy or infertility), while conservative treatment may be considered in older patients. A hydrocele is a fluid-filled sac derived from the tunica vaginalis or remnant of the processus vaginalis (infantile hydrocele) which results in a painless swelling of the scrotum that occurs at birth or later in life. Typical clinical findings and transillumination confirm the diagnosis. Hydroceles usually resolve spontaneously, but surgery may be indicated in prolonged congenital forms to prevent inguinal hernia.

Close urological monitoring is necessary, as the risk of testicular cancer and infertility is increased.

Grading of varicocele (Sarteschi classification) [6]
Grade Characteristics
Grade I
  • No visible varicosity
  • Reflux in vessels of the inguinal channel only when provoked by Valsalva maneuver
Grade II
Grade III
Grade IV
Grade V

Always perform an ultrasound of both testicles when varicocele is suspected, as the condition may occur bilaterally.

A unilateral right-sided varicocele is uncommon and should raise suspicion of a mass in the retroperitoneal space (Ormond disease, lymphoma, renal cell carcinoma) blocking the spermatic vein.

A hydrocele must be differentiated from an inguinal hernia.

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