Kidney, Reproductive and Urinary Conditions


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 membrane of tissue forms a sac and moves with the testicles into the scrotum. Normally, after the testicles move down, the sac inside the scrotum closes. If a portion of the sac near the testicles does not close, this is called a hydrocele. The boy's body usually absorbs the fluid in the hydrocele during the first year of life.

Hydrocele occurs when:

  • The sac with the testicles that descends from the belly to the scrotum doesn't close. Fluid keeps draining from the belly into the scrotum. This is called a communicating hydrocele. It is similar to a hernia. Like a hernia, it requires surgery.
  • The upper part of the sac closes, but the boy's body doesn't absorb the fluid around the testicles before he's born. This is called a simple hydrocele. It usually goes away on its own by the time a boy is a year old.

Hydrocele in Children

Hydrocele is common in boys. About one in 10 boys is born with a simple hydrocele. Doctors sometimes find a communicating hydrocele after a boy's birth.

Hydrocele at Seattle Children's

We treat many boys with hydrocele. Doctors in our General and Thoracic Surgery Department treat some of these boys. Others see doctors in our Urology Department. Both departments can take care of boys with hydrocele.

Each year, doctors in Seattle Children's General & Thoracic Surgery Department take care of several hundred boys who have hernias and hydroceles.

When you come to Seattle Children's, you have a team of people to care for your child before, during and after surgery. Along with your child's surgeon, you are connected with nurses, child life specialists and others. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and to help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Seattle Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.