Baby boys sometimes have a hydrocele at birth. Hydroceles also occur in older boys and men. Sometimes they form when there is also a hernia (an abnormal bulging of tissue) present. Hydroceles are fairly common.
Surgery to repair a hydrocele is often done at an outpatient clinic. General anesthesia is used so you will be asleep and pain-free during the procedure.
In a baby or child:
- The surgeon makes a small surgical cut in the fold of the groin, and then drains the fluid. The sac (hydrocele) holding the fluid may be removed. The surgeon strengthens the muscle wall with stitches. This is called a hernia repair.
- Sometimes the surgeon uses a laparoscope to do this procedure. A laparoscope is a tiny camera that the surgeon inserts into the area through a small surgical cut. The camera is attached to a video monitor. The surgeon makes the repair with small instruments that are inserted through other small surgical cuts.
In adults, the cut is most often made on the scrotum. The surgeon then drains the fluid after removing part of the hydrocele sac.
Needle drainage of the fluid is not done very often because the problem will always come back.
Why the Procedure is Performed
Hydroceles often go away on their own in children, but not in adults. Most hydroceles in infants will go away by the time they are 2 years old.
Your surgeon may recommend hydrocele repair if the hydrocele:
- Becomes too large
- Causes problems with blood flow
- Is infected
- Is painful or uncomfortable
It may also be done if there is a hernia.
Before the Procedure
Always tell your health care provider what drugs you are taking, even drugs, supplements, or herbs you bought without a prescription. Also tell your doctor if you have any drug allergies or if you have had bleeding problems in the past.
Several days before surgery, adults may be asked to stop taking aspirin or other drugs that affect blood clotting. These include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve), some herbal supplements, and others.
You or your child may be asked to stop eating and drinking at least 6 hours before the procedure.
Take the medicines you have been told to take with a small sip of water.
After the Procedure
Recovery is quick in most cases. Most people can go home a few hours after surgery. Children should limit activity and get extra rest in the first few days after surgery. In most cases, normal activity can start again in about 4 to 7 days.
The success rate for hydrocele repair is very high. The long-term outlook is excellent. However, another hydrocele may form over time, or if there was also a hernia present.
Aiken JJ, Oldham KT. Inguinal hernias. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 338.
Barthold JS. Abnormalities of the testes and scrotum andtheir surgical management.In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 132.
Elder JS. Disorders and anomalies of the scrotal contents.In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 539.
Kavoussi PK, Costabile RA. Surgery of the scrotum and seminal vesicles. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 37.
Wampler SM, Llanes M. Common scrotal and testicular problems. Prim Care. 2010. 37(3):613-626. PMID: 20705202. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20705202.
Review Date 1/21/2015
Updated by: Scott Miller, MD, Urologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.