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Hydrocele and Hernia

What is a Hydrocele or a Hernia?

Hydroceles and inguinal hernias are common surgical problems that can occur at any age.

One sign of a hernia is when a child has a "bulge" in the groin, or in boys, the scrotum. “Inguinal hernias” are much more common in boys. A hernia is when the stomach contents can be felt in the groin or scrotum. In boys, the contents may include the intestines. In girls, the contents may include the intestines, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

A hydrocele is a collection of fluid in the scrotum around the testicle.

A passage between the abdomen and the groin normally closes before the baby is born. When this passage does not close, a hernia or hydrocele can result.

A “communicating” hydrocele or hernia means that the passage is always open, and that surgery is needed to close the passage.

Small scrotal hydroceles are common at birth. This is due to the trauma of the delivery. This type is called a “noncommunicating” hydrocele and will resolve on its own.

Symptoms of Hydrocele / Hernia

When a hydrocele is present, a nontender “mass” or “bulge” is seen in the groin or scrotum. A “communicating” hydrocele or hernia will change in size, becoming larger when a baby is crying, or if older, when the child is walking. The “bulge” will be smaller in size when the child is sleeping or quiet. A hydrocele or hernia is usually not painful; however, some infants do experience pain. You may notice your infant is more irritable, cries more often and pulls their legs up to their belly.

A hydrocele is not serious, but it can develop into a hernia. As long as the stomach contents can be pushed back into the abdomen, the child is not at risk. If, however, the stomach contents become stuck and cannot be pushed back into the abdomen, it is called an” incarcerated hernia.” If your child begins vomiting, has extreme tenderness of the area, a black and blue look to the groin or scrotum, fever or diarrhea, the hernia may have become “incarcerated.” This can result in a blockage of the bowel or damage to the contents in the hernia.

Treatment for Hydrocele / Hernia

For a “noncommunicating” hydrocele, your doctor will just watch your child for any changes. If a “communicating” hydrocele or hernia is present, your child will need surgery.

After Surgery Care

After surgery for a hernia / hydrocele, a clear, painted-on dressing called Dermabond is placed over the incision. Keep the area as clean and dry as possible, with frequent diaper changes. If stool gets on the incision, clean it as well as you can with a warm wet washcloth. The Dermabond gradually peels off on its own.

  • No tub baths for five days after surgery
  • No straddle toys or playing in sandboxes for four weeks
  • No gym, sports or lifting more than the weight of a gallon of milk for four weeks. This could change based on your child’s age and at the doctor’s discretion.
  • May return to school two to three days after surgery or when no longer pain medicine

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

Call your doctor right away if your child has any of the following:

  • Increased irritability
  • Seems to be in pain
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

Last Updated 04/2021

Reviewed By William DeFoor Jr., MD, MPH

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The Division of Urology treats a complete range of disorders affecting the urinary and genital tracts, from common concerns to rare and complex abnormalities.

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