Urologists often order scrotal ultrasounds to confirm suspicions about abnormalities that they discover during a physical exam or to discover abnormalities that may be too small to detect by other means. Ultrasounds are painless windows into the inner workings of the testicle that do not present any risk to the patient which is why they are a popular diagnostic tool for docs. Read on to learn what you can expect from a scrotal ultrasound appointment.
What It Is
Ultrasonography is a common technique used to image inner organs. The most well-known use of ultrasounds is for anatomy scans of the fetus during pregnancy, but they are also commonly used to examine heart and kidney function, look for blood clots, detect cancer and verify the existence of kidney stones among other things. Ultrasounds work on the same principles as SONARs on submaries. A high-frequency sound is sent into the body. When it hits tissue, it is reflected back creating an image of the internal tissue structure. The doppler will also measure blood flow in and out of the testicle which is helpful for diagnosing testicle torsion and varicoceles.
Why It’s Done
Scrotal ultrasounds are done for the following reasons.
- Pinpoint the cause of testicular pain
- Look at lumps found by doctors during physical exam
- Determine the cause of testicular swelling
- Verify causes of infertility
- Find testicles that haven’t descended properly
What to Expect at the Appointment
At your appointment, you will be asked to undress from the waist down. You will lie down on an examination table with your legs spread, penis moved out of the way and cloth draped over. Sometimes tape is used to help optimally position scrotum. The sac will be slightly raised with testicles lying side by side. A clear gel will be applied to help transmit sound waves and a handheld probe (transducer) is gently moved over the scrotum to capture images of the testicle. . The gel will feel wet and might be slightly cold, but otherwise the test is painless.
A number of conditions can be diagnosed using the ultrasound:
- Inflammation (Epididymitis and Epididymo-orchitis) which is can be caused by sexually transmitted disease or urinary tract infection
- Testicular Torsion: twisting of spermatic cord that can cut off blood supply to the testicle
- Varicocele: enlarged veins that can contribute to infertility
- Injury: the extent of damage caused to testicle from an injury
- Cysts: benign masses that can occur for various reasons including spermatoceles which are lumps of sperm that get stuck in the testicle.
- Tumors: various forms of testicular cancer
- Microlithiasis: tiny tiny lumps in the testicle that are mysterious but associated with infertility, varicoceles, testicular atrophy, Klinefelter syndrome, infertility, torsion, and testicular neoplasms
- Testicular atrophy and degeneration: Steroids, Klinefelter syndrome, varicoceles, mumps, and cryptorchidism can reduce testicle size and impact fertility.