What is a testicular ultrasound?
A testicular ultrasound is a diagnostic test that obtains images of the testicles and the surrounding tissues in your scrotum. Ultrasound is also called sonography or ultrasound scanning. Your doctor may refer to a testicular ultrasound as a testicular sonogram or scrotal ultrasound.
The two testicles are the primary male reproductive organs. They produce sperm and the male sex hormone testosterone. Your testicles are in your scrotum, which is the fleshy pouch of tissue that hangs under your penis.
An ultrasound is a safe, painless, and noninvasive procedure. The procedure uses high-frequency sound waves to produce images of organs inside your body.
An ultrasound uses a probe or transducer. This handheld device converts energy from one form to another. It’s moved against the targeted part of your body in sweeping motions. The transducer emits sound waves as it moves across your body. The transducer then receives the sound waves as they bounce off your organs in a series of echoes. A computer processes the echoes into images on a video monitor. Normal and abnormal tissue transmit different types of echoes. A radiologist can interpret the echoes to distinguish between benign condition like a collection of fluid around your testicle and a solid mass that could be a malignant tumor.
A testicular ultrasound is the primary imaging method used to observe and diagnose abnormalities in the testicles. Your doctor may recommend a testicular ultrasound to:
- verify whether a lump in your scrotum or testicles is solid, which indicates a tumor, or filled with fluid, which indicates a cyst
- determine the outcome of trauma to your scrotum
- evaluate for possible testicular torsion, which is a twisted testicle
- identify sources of pain or swelling in your testicles
- detect for and evaluate varicoceles, which are varicose spermatic veins
- 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 your testicles.
Each testicle connects to the rest of your body by a spermatic cord. This tube contains an artery and a vein. The tube also includes the vas deferens, which carries sperm from the testicles to the urethra. Your doctor can study blood flow in your testicles to find narrowing or blockages interfering with the flow of semen and hindering fertility.
A testicular ultrasound won’t put you at risk for any health problems. There’s no radiation exposure during the procedure. However, you may have increased pain or discomfort during the procedure if you have certain testicular issues, such as testicular torsion or an infection.
Typically, there’s no special preparation necessary for a testicular ultrasound. There’s no need for dietary restrictions, fasting, or a full bladder before the exam.
Speak with your doctor about any prescription or over-the-counter medications you take. There rarely is a need to interrupt or discontinue medication before a testicular ultrasound.
A testicular ultrasound is usually an outpatient procedure performed in the radiology department of a hospital or at your doctor’s office.
Typically, a testicular ultrasound takes about 20 to 30 minutes. It involves the following steps.
You may need to change into a hospital gown. You won’t typically receive sedatives, anesthesia, or topical numbing agents.
You’ll lie on your back with your legs spread. The ultrasound technician may place a towel underneath your scrotum to keep it elevated. They may place wide strips of tape across your thighs and under your scrotum to elevate your scrotum.
You’ll need to lie completely still during the procedure.
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 technician will glide the transducer around your scrotum, moving back and forth. You may feel pressure as the technician pushes it firmly against your body. You may feel discomfort if there’s pressure on an area where you have tenderness due to an abnormality.
The technician will position the transducer against your body from different angles.
After the procedure
The technician will wipe the gel off your body after the procedure.
After your testicular ultrasound, you can resume your normal activities and diet. No recovery time is necessary.
A radiologist will analyze the images obtained during your testicular ultrasound. They’ll then send a report detailing the results of the test to your doctor.
If there are abnormal findings on your testicular ultrasound, they may indicate:
- an infection in your testicle
- a benign cyst
- a testicular torsion, which is a twisted spermatic cord restricting blood flow to your testicle
- a testicular tumor
- a hydrocele, which is a benign collection of fluid around your testicle
- a spermatocele, which is a fluid-filled cyst on the ducts of your testicle
- a varicocele, which is an enlarged vein in the spermatic cord of your testicle
Your doctor will probably recommend further investigation if the testicular ultrasound identifies a tumor.