A testicular ultrasound is a noninvasive medical imaging study of the scrotum and surrounding structures. This test can provide information about pain, infertility, a growth, or other issues in this region. It does not involve the use of radiation and is not dangerous to patients, though it may cause some physical discomfort. In addition to standard ultrasound, a technician can also use Doppler technology to evaluate bloodflow in the testicles. The results of the test may be available immediately, or after a care provider has time to review the images, depending on why the test was ordered.
The patient lies prone with the legs spread for a testicular ultrasound. Draping is used for privacy and comfort, and the care provider positions the testicles to get a good view. The technician applies gel for better conduction and then pushes an ultrasound transducer against the testicle. It sends and receives sonic waves to build a picture that will highlight different kinds of tissue, buildups of fluid, air, and other things inside the testes.
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One reason to request a testicular ultrasound is to evaluate a patient after an injury, or to diagnose a patient who reports pain. The care provider can check for torsion, a painful twisting of the spermatic cord, along with an non-descended testicle or signs of internal bleeding. Masses found on palpation can also be evaluated by ultrasound to learn more about their nature. If a patient has fertility problems, a testicular ultrasound may be recommended to learn more about the structure of the testes.
Ultrasound-guided procedures can also be performed on the testicles. Most commonly, this takes the form of a needle aspiration biopsy. In this test, a doctor carefully inserts a needle to collect a sample of cells or fluid from the inside of the testicles. The ultrasound helps the care provider locate the area to sample and guide the needle in and out with precision. Ultrasound can also guide someone looking for a mass to palpate and evaluate, or can help a care provider check the size of a mass on follow-up appointments.
Some patients experience pain and discomfort because lying down for the test can be awkward, and the technician may need to press quite firmly to get clear images. Especially if the patient’s testes are already tender, the pressure can be uncomfortable and any sharp twinges of pain should be reported, as it might be an indicator of something wrong. Involuntary erections can also occur during a testicular ultrasound. While patients may feel embarrassed by this, technicians understand that it is normal, have probably seen it before, and typically handle the situation with discretion.