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Hydrocele is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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A collection of fluid between the parietal and visceral layers of the tunica vaginalis within the scrotum

  • Communicating hydrocele (patent processus vaginalis)
    • Direct communication with the peritoneal cavity
    • Contains peritoneal fluid
    • Almost always with associated indirect inguinal hernia
    • Decreases in size with recumbent position
  • Noncommunicating hydrocele (the processus vaginalis is not patent)
    • No direct connection to the peritoneal cavity
    • Fluid contained is from the mesothelial lining.
    • Can be isolated to the cord with the distal and proximal portions of the processus vaginalis closed
  • Acute hydrocele: fluid collection resulting from an acute process within the tunica vaginalis, typically involving only the scrotum
  • System(s) affected: urogenital

Pediatric Considerations
In a communicating hydrocele, consider contralateral inguinal exploration to rule out an occult indirect hernia.


Predominant age: childhood

Estimated at 0.7–4.7% of male infants

  • 1,000/100,000
  • Estimated at 1% of adult men

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Incomplete closure of the processus vaginalis trapping peritoneal fluid anywhere along the length of the tunica vaginalis
  • Failure of closure of the processus vaginalis maintaining a communication to the peritoneal cavity
  • Imbalance of the secretion and reabsorption of fluid from the lining of the tunica vaginalis
  • Infection
  • Tumors
  • Trauma
  • Ipsilateral renal transplantation

Risk Factors

  • Ventriculoperitoneal shunt
  • Exstrophy of the bladder
  • Cloacal exstrophy
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Peritoneal dialysis

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Testicular tumors
  • Scrotal trauma
  • Ventriculoperitoneal shunt
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Renal failure with peritoneal dialysis

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Stephens, Mark B., et al., editors. "Hydrocele." 5-Minute Clinical Consult, 27th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Medicine Central, im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116289/all/Hydrocele.
Hydrocele. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, et al, eds. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. 27th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116289/all/Hydrocele. Accessed April 21, 2019.
Hydrocele. (2019). In Stephens, M. B., Golding, J., Baldor, R. A., & Domino, F. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Available from https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116289/all/Hydrocele
Hydrocele [Internet]. In: Stephens MB, Golding J, Baldor RA, Domino FJ, editors. 5-Minute Clinical Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 21]. Available from: https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116289/all/Hydrocele.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Hydrocele ID - 116289 ED - Stephens,Mark B, ED - Golding,Jeremy, ED - Baldor,Robert A, ED - Domino,Frank J, BT - 5-Minute Clinical Consult, Updating UR - https://im.unboundmedicine.com/medicine/view/5-Minute-Clinical-Consult/116289/all/Hydrocele PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 27 DB - Medicine Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -