Hernias and Hydrocele in Children: What You Should Know

Hernias and hydroceles are fairly common, mostly in male infants. A hydrocele is a collection of fluid in the scrotal sac of male infants. A baby’s scrotum may appear swollen or large; in some cases the fluid will go away within six to 12 months. However, if it doesn’t, surgery may be required to prevent additional complications.

Girls do not develop hydroceles; instead they can develop hernias. Due to their anatomy, girls are 10 times less likely than boys to develop hernias. Though more commonly found in boys, girls can also develop similar issues. Family members may experience hernias or hydroceles; however, there is no evidence that they are inherited or that a parent could have prevented them in their children.

Understanding Hernias and Hydrocele:

Testicles develop near the kidneys and descend to their normal position in the scrotum just before a boy is born. For the testicles to leave the abdomen, a muscle ring in the groin on each side opens, allowing the testicles to drop.

As the testicles descend, the abdominal lining also drops to line the scrotum and in most cases, this channel usually closes. If the channel remains open, or reopens, fluid can leak to the scrotum, resulting in hydrocele. If the channel remains opens or reopens widely, some of the intestine can pass down toward the scrotum, leading to a hernia.

Hydroceles can also develop from inflammation or injury within the scrotum. Hernias may also result from increased pressure that forces part of the intestines through a weak spot in the abdominal wall.

Symptoms of Hernias and Hydrocele may Include:

Though hydrocele and hernia may not always cause symptoms, some things to watch out for include:

  • Hydrocele — About 10 percent of male infants have a hydrocele at birth. Seldom causing symptoms, this swelling of the scrotum does not bother a baby. It usually disappears in the first year, even though the appearance may worry parents. In older males, a hydrocele usually remains painless but may cause discomfort due to the increased size of the scrotum.
  • Hernia — Only about 25 percent of cases cause pain or discomfort. However, you may be able to see and feel the bulge. About 1 percent of boys develop hernias with premature infant males having a higher incidence.

Treatment Options for Hernia and Hydrocele:

Treatment for hernia and hydrocele may involve surgery, however speaking with one of our urologists will more accurately describe your treatment plan which may include:

  • Hydroceles – Require surgical repair if they cause symptoms, such as growing large or changing size significantly during the day.
  • Hernias – Do not go away on their own and may cause problems with digestion leading to emergency surgery if left untreated. We usually recommend surgery to repair the muscle ring that did not close properly. In infants and children, a small incision is made in the groin through which we suture or sew the channel shut and repair the muscle ring. This procedure can be done in an outpatient setting. In teenagers, laparoscopic surgery may be considered.

A hernia or hydrocele diagnosis in your child may be frightening, but we are here to help you every step of the way to make this process more manageable. It is important that your doctor work with you to accurately diagnose your symptoms and tailor a unique treatment plan to fit your specific needs. We at Western Michigan Urological Associates want to work with you to find the best option for you and your family. Ask Your Primary Care Provider for a Referral.