Kidney, Reproductive and Urinary Conditions

Hydrocele

What is hydrocele?

Hydrocele (pronounced HI-druh-seal) is a build-up of fluid in the sac inside a boy's scrotum.

Before birth, a boy's testicles move from his belly (abdomen) into his scrotum. A small, thin sac that holds the intestines in place moves with the testicles into the scrotum. Normally, after the testicles move down, the sac inside the scrotum closes, and the boy's body absorbs any extra fluid trapped inside the sac. If the sac does not close, or if it closes but extra fluid stays trapped inside, this is called a hydrocele.

There are 2 types of hydroceles:

  • Communicating hydrocele. The sac that moves from the belly into the scrotum does not close all the way. A very small opening remains. Fluid keeps draining from the belly into the scrotum. This type of hydrocele is similar to a hernia. But in a hernia, the opening to the sac is large, and intestine can enter the sac along with fluid. Like a hernia, a communicating hydrocele requires surgery.
  • Simple hydrocele. The sac in the scrotum closes, but the boy's body does not absorb the fluid before he is born. This type of hydrocele usually goes away on its own by the time a boy is a year old because his body eventually absorbs the fluid.

Hydrocele in Children

Hydrocele is common in boys. About 1in 10 boys in the United States is born with a simple hydrocele.

Hydrocele at Seattle Children's

Our doctors in Pediatric General and Thoracic Surgery and Urology have a great deal of experience and expertise in treating hydrocele. Each year, our doctors take care of several hundred boys who have hernias and hydroceles.

Contact Us

If you have questions about hydrocele treatment, call our General and Thoracic Surgery Department at 206-987-2794, ext. 4.