Hydrocele and Hernia

What is a hydrocele and hernia?

A hydrocele occurs when fluid collects in the scrotum and causes it to swell.

Hydrocele Illustration

This may or may not be accompanied by a hernia. A hernia is present when bowel or membranes, known as omentum, push through the abdominal wall either into or above the scrotum.

Hydrocele and Hernia Illustration

A hydrocele or a hernia may be on one or both sides. These conditions can occur when the opening between the abdomen and the scrotum do not close after birth.

Hernia or hydrocele occurs in 3-5 percent of full-term infants. Hernias usually occur in newborns but may appear weeks, months or years after birth. Prematurity and low birth weight can increase the chance for a hernia or hydrocele.

Signs and symptoms

Hydroceles appear as swelling in the scrotum. A hydrocele may appear larger at the end of the day or with increased activity. Hernias appear as a bulge in the groin.


A hydrocele that persists beyond 12 months of age usually requires a surgical correction. A hernia at any age should be corrected. The surgery involves making a small incision in the groin or inguinal area and then draining the fluid and closing off the opening between the scrotum and the abdominal area.

Each year, our physicians treat more than 1,200 patients with a hernia or hydrocele. It is one of the most common surgeries performed by the Division of Urology.

The operation is routinely done through one of our day surgical units. Your child usually does not need to spend the night at the hospital.

The incision is usually closed with dissolvable stitches under the skin and a glue seal on the surface that will fall off on its own, requiring no special care. Your child will be sent home with oral pain medication; some children require nothing more than Tylenol®.

The majority of children who undergo surgery for hydrocele and hernia do exceptionally well after surgery.

Reviewed by: Division of Urology
Date: March 2011

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