If your son develops a sharp, excruciating pain on one side of his scrotum, he may have what is called a testicular torsion — a condition that requires immediate treatment.
A testicular torsion occurs when the testicle twists on the attached spermatic cord (the cord from which the testicle is suspended), like an apple twisting on its stem, which either diminishes or fully cuts off any circulation to the testicles. Every year, testicular torsion affects 1 in every 4,000 men and boys younger than 25. If your son doesn’t have surgery to correct the problem within six to 12 hours, the tissue will be destroyed. The damage is irreversible, so quick action is needed to save the testicle.
Torsion is most common in boys aged 12 to 20 — but it can also occur in younger boys, and for some the torsion occurs in the womb during fetal development. The torsion can happen during any type of activity, even when your child is at rest.
Here is how you can tell if your son has a testicular torsion:
If your son has these symptoms, you should get him to a hospital immediately so he can be diagnosed and treated. Surgery is required to untwist and save the testicle. Since a child who has suffered one torsion is more likely to have another, your son’s other testicle will have to be surgically secured to prevent it from twisting as well.
A more common condition in boys aged 7 to 14 is the torsion of the appendix testis. With this type of torsion, the pain comes on more gradually and the scrotum will be swollen and look blue or bruised at the top. This condition doesn’t require surgery and usually resolves itself in a few days. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your pediatrician for an accurate diagnosis.
Reviewed by: Patrick S. Pasquariello Jr., MD
Date: June 2013