Hydrocele Repair

What is hydrocele?

A hydrocele is a collection of fluid in the scrotum that drains downward from the abdominal cavity. It is not harmful to the testicles and does not cause discomfort.
  • Hydroceles are sometimes present at birth or may develop later. 
  • They can occur on one or both sides of the scrotum. 
  • The fluid typically makes the scrotum look enlarged. 
  • The hydrocele may be “communicating,” where the volume increases and decreases due to open passage with the abdominal cavity, or “non-communicating,” where the volume of fluid is constant around the testicle.

What are the symptoms and findings with a hydrocele?

Usually the only indication of a hydrocele is a painless swelling of one or both sides of the scrotum. Sometimes, the swollen scrotum may be smaller in the morning and larger later in the day if it is a communicating hydrocele. Parents often say they notice the hydrocele during diaper changes or bath time. Sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish a hydrocele from a hernia. The latter is defined by intestinal contents coming in and out of the groin and scrotum. This can often be distinguished on physical examination. In addition, your provider may also request an ultrasound to make the determination.

What is the treatment of a hydrocele?

Hydroceles often go away on their own and no treatment is typically needed. If the hydrocele has not disappeared by the time your son turns 1 or becomes very large, he may need an operation to remove the hydrocele.

How is the hydrocele corrected by the surgery?

  • An anesthesiologist (a physician who specializes in pain relief) gives your child general anesthesia, which puts him asleep.
  • A small incision, or cut, is made in the skin fold of the groin. 
  • The hydrocele "sac" containing the fluid is identified. 
  • The surgeon empties the fluid from the sac. The sac is removed. 
  • If there is an opening to the abdominal cavity, it is closed 
  • The muscle wall is reinforced with stitches to prevent a recurrent hernia or hydrocele.

When can my child go home after surgery?

Most children will be able to go home a few hours after surgery. However, premature infants and children with certain medical conditions might need to spend one night in the hospital for observation.

What care does my child need after surgery?

Usually, your child will feel fine again the evening after surgery or by the next morning. He may resume normal eating habits and activities.

You may give your child a sponge bath the day after surgery. Tub baths are not permitted until 10 days after surgery.

The small pieces of tape covering your child's incisions (called steri-strips) will gradually fall off on their own. Do not pull these strips off yourself. Once the strips fall off on their own, you may leave the incision site open to air. If preferred, you may cover with a Bandaid. If the strips do not fall off on their own, they will be removed during your child's follow-up appointment.

Tylenol or Advil by mouth may be given to your child for pain or discomfort while at home. Your healthcare provider will provide you the appropriate dose to give based on your child’s weight.

It is common, especially for larger hydroceles, to have swelling in the groin and scrotum after surgery. This usually resolves within several weeks to a month. Often there may also be some recurrent fluid accumulation around the testicle. This also generally resolves on its own.

When to call your child's health care provider:

You might notice some minor swelling around the incision. This is normal. However, call your health care provider if your child has:
  • A fever greater than 101.5 
  • Excessive swelling to the area 
  • Redness 
  • Bleeding 
  • Increasing pain 
  • Any other questions or concerns

Follow-up appointment

A follow-up appointment will be scheduled from 1-2 weeks after your child's surgery.