A testicle ultrasound is a test used to obtain images of the testicles and the surrounding area in the scrotum. Ultrasound also is called sonography or ultrasound scanning. A testicle ultrasound may be referred to as a testicle sonogram or scrotal ultrasound.
The two testicles are the male reproductive organs. They produce sperm and the male sex hormone testosterone. Your testicles are located in your scrotum, which is the fleshy pouch of tissue that hangs under your penis.
Ultrasound is a safe, painless, and noninvasive procedure. The procedure uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of organs inside your body.
The instrument used during an ultrasound is a probe or transducer. This handheld device converts energy from one form to another. It is pushed against the targeted part of your body in sweeping motions. As the transducer moves across your body, it emits sound waves.
As the sound waves bounce off your organs in a series of echoes, they are received by the transducer. The echoes are processed by a computer into images on a video monitor. Normal and abnormal tissue each transmit different types of echoes. A radiologist can interpret the echoes to distinguish between benign and malignant types of tumors.
A testicle ultrasound is the primary imaging method used to observe and diagnose abnormalities in the testicles. Your physician may recommend a testicle ultrasound to:
- verify whether a lump in the scrotum or testicles is solid (a tumor) or filled with fluid (a cyst)
- determine the outcome of trauma to the scrotum
- identify sources of pain or swelling of the testicles
- assess the causes of infertility
- find the location of an undescended testicle
Ultrasound echoes can provide real-time still or moving images. Data from moving images is useful in examining blood flow to and from the testicles.
Each testicle is connected to the rest of your body by a spermatic cord, which contains an artery and a vein. The tube also includes the vas deferens, which carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra. Studies of the testicular blood flow can reveal constrictions or obstructions that may be interfering with the flow of semen and hindering fertility.
Typically, there is no special preparation necessary for a testicle ultrasound. There is no need for dietary restrictions, fasting, or a full bladder prior to the exam.
You should tell your physician about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you are taking. Discuss how they should be used before and during the test. There rarely is a need to interrupt or discontinue medication prior to a testicle ultrasound.
A testicle ultrasound usually is administered as an outpatient procedure in the radiology department of a hospital or at your physician’s office.
Typically, a testicle ultrasound takes about 30 minutes. It is administered by an ultrasound technician or radiologist and involves the following steps:
You may be asked to change into a hospital gown. Sedatives, anesthesia, or topical numbing agents are not typically administered.
You will be positioned so that you are lying on your back with your legs spread.
For proper examination, the scrotum must be slightly raised. The technician may use a towel underneath the scrotum to keep it elevated. Or, wide strips of tape may be placed across your thighs under the scrotum.
You will have to lie completely still during the procedure.
The Imaging Technique
The technician will apply a warm, water-based gel to your testicles. This gel will allow the transducer to glide over your body. It also facilitates the conduction of the sound waves.
The transducer is glided around the scrotum, moving back and forth. You may feel pressure as the technician pushes it firmly against your body. You may feel discomfort if pressure is being applied to an area where an abnormality has caused tenderness.
The technician will position the transducer against your body from different angles.
When the procedure is finished, the gel will be wiped off your body.
After your testicle ultrasound is completed, you will be able to resume your normal activities and diet. No recovery time is necessary.
A testicle ultrasound will not put you at risk for any health problems. You will not be exposed to radiation during the procedure, so your sperm will not be affected.
The images obtained during your testicle ultrasound will be observed and analyzed by a radiologist. A report detailing the results of the test will be sent to your physician.
If there are abnormal findings in your testicle ultrasound, they may indicate:
- an infection in the testicle
- a benign cyst
- testicular torsion: blood flow to the testicle is restricted by a twisted spermatic cord
- testicular tumor
- hydrocele: a benign collection of fluid around the testicle
- spermatocele: a fluid-filled cyst that develops on the ducts of the testicles
- varicocele: enlarged veins in the spermatic cord of the testicle
If a tumor is identified in your testicle ultrasound, your physician likely will recommend further investigation. An open surgical procedure, called a radical inguinal orchiectomy, is the standard method for testicular cancer diagnosis. The procedure involves the removal of the affected testicle through an incision in the groin. Tissue samples are taken and examined to confirm the cancer diagnosis.