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HealthInfo Canterbury


A hydrocele is a fluid-filled swelling in a boy's scrotum, around the testicle (or testis). Fixing a hydrocele isn't urgent, and it doesn't affect the boy's future fertility.

Hydroceles happen when a tunnel that runs between a boy's tummy and scrotum doesn't fully close. Usually this connection closes before birth, after a baby boy's testicles have moved down from his tummy into his scrotum.

There's normally some fluid in the tummy, so if the connection doesn't fully close, this fluid will trickle down and collect in the scrotum.

Hydroceles affect around 10% of baby boys. They usually disappear before a boy turns 2.

Some boys with a hydrocele also have an inguinal hernia.

What does a hydrocele look and feel like?

Hydroceles can be different sizes, and their size varies from day to day. They look like a soft spherical swelling in the scrotum. They usually surround one testicle, and feel like a smooth, fluid-filled balloon inside the boy's scrotum, on one or both sides. They don't hurt.

How is a hydrocele treated?

Hydroceles usually get better by themselves by the time the boy is 2, without needing any treatment. If the swelling is still there after your boy turns 2, your GP can refer him to a paediatric surgeon to find out if it needs to be treated.

If he has an inguinal hernia, this will be repaired at the same time as any surgery.

The operation to fix a hydrocele is done as day surgery, so your boy doesn't need to stay in hospital overnight. The surgeon makes a small cut in the boy's groin. The surgeon closes the abnormally open passage between the boy's tummy and scrotum, so that fluid can't drain through it again.

The surgeon then closes the cut using dissolvable stitches, which don't need to be removed. There aren't any stitch marks.

There's an extremely low risk that the wound may bleed or become infected and your boy may need to take antibiotics. There's a very small chance (one in 1000) that the surgery may damage his vas deferens (the tube that carries sperm) or other vessels. Talk to your boy's surgeon about these risks.

Your boy should recover quickly, although he may need some simple pain relief for a few days.

Written by paediatric surgeon, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created May 2018.


Image: Mosby's Medical Dictionary, 8th edition. 2009. Elsevier 27 August 2017.

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Review key: HITSP-309438