A hydrocele is a swelling in the scrotum. Fluid collects in the thin covering that surrounds a testicle. This is common in babies. It can also be seen in older boys and men can develop following inflammation and injury within the scrotum. While they are not painful and may not require treatment, it is always advised that you seek specialist advice.


Diagnosis begins with a physical examination to check for tenderness in the enlarged scrotum. They will also check the abdomen and scrotum to check whether there is an inguinal hernia. A light will be shone through the scrotum will enable them to check that there is clear fluid surrounding the testicle. After a physical examination, a specialist might suggest blood and urine tests to rule out infection. An ultrasound will rule out a hernia, tumour or other causes of scrotal swelling.


There are two: communicating hydrocele and non-communicating hydrocele.

  • Communicating hydrocele: This is a type of hydrocele that has contact (communication) with the fluids of the abdominal cavity. A communicating hydrocele is caused by the failure of the processus vaginalis (the thin membrane that extends through the inguinal canal and extends into the scrotum). If this membrane remains open, there is a potential for both a hernia and a hydrocele to develop. The child’s scrotum will appear swollen or large and may change in size throughout the day.
  • Non-communicating hydrocele: In this type, the inguinal canal did close, but there is still extra fluid around the testicle in the scrotum. This condition might be present at birth or might develop years later for no obvious reason. A non-communicating hydrocele usually remains the same size or has very slow growth.


Surgery to remove a hydrocele is carried out as a day case procedure and a hyrdocelectomy is carried out under either general or regional anaesthesia. The surgeon will make an incision in the scrotum and then remove the hydrocele.

In most cases the patient can return home the same day. However, in some instances, a tube might be required to drain the fluid while a dressing will need to be worn for a few days. You will likely have a follow-up examination to ensure that everything has healed but to also make sure that it has not recurred.


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