Testicular Torsion Symptoms & Causes

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What is testicular torsion?

Each testicle is connected to the internal reproductive organs by the spermatic cord, a structure that contains blood vessels, nerves, muscles and a tube for carrying semen. If this cord twists, the blood supply to the testicle is pinched off.

Without blood, cells in the testicle will die. Testicular torsion, sometimes referred to as torsion of the spermatic cord, is a rare condition that can destroy a testicle in as little as 4 to 6 hours.

How common is testicular torsion and when does it occur?

In general, testicular torsion accounts for about 40 percent of all cases of acute scrotal pain and swelling. It usually occurs during two time periods — at birth and during puberty — but it can occur at any age. Many boys and men who develop testicular torsion have an anatomic abnormality which causes the spermatic cord to twist more freely.

Newborn torsion accounts for 12 percent of all cases of testicular torsion. It's usually discovered after the development of an enlarged, swollen and reddened scrotum. If this happens before birth, most likely the testicle cannot be saved, but a torsion occurring in the weeks after birth can potentially be untwisted if discovered in time.

What are the symptoms of testicular torsion?

Newborn torsion nearly always occurs without symptoms.

Older boys or young men who develop torsion do have symptoms:

  • testicular pain
  • abdominal pain
  • nausea
  • vomiting

If the scrotum is examined by touch when intense pain begins, the affected testicle will feel swollen, red and very tender. Half of the time boys who have testicular torsion have experienced previous episodes of testicular pain.

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