What is the Spermatic Cord?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The spermatic cord is a collection of layered tissues and bundled fibers which pass through the abdomen and into the testes in males. As a general rule, men have two of these cords, one for each testicle. These cords play a number of roles in the male body, including acting as a conduit for semen. Issues with the spermatic cord can lead to pelvic pain and infertility, making it important to receive treatment if a problem with the spermatic cord is identified or suspected.

As a general rule, men have two spermatic cords, one for each testicle.
As a general rule, men have two spermatic cords, one for each testicle.

Anatomical drawings often simplify the spermatic cord, labeling it as the vas deferens. While the vas deferens does indeed run through this anatomical structure, this cord also carries blood vessels and nerves which supply the testes. It is surrounded by several tough layers of connective tissue which protect the contents from trauma, impingement, and other potential threats.

The spermatic cord is often referred to as the vas deferens.
The spermatic cord is often referred to as the vas deferens.

One concern with the spermatic cord is that it is vulnerable to testicular torsion, in which the testicle twists and cuts off the blood supply. If torsion is not treated promptly, it can lead to tissue death because the flow of blood to the testicle is interruption. Torsion is usually painful, which makes it easy to identify, and it can be treated with a surgical procedure in which the offending testicle is repositioned and fixed in place.

Since sperm can linger in the spermatic cord, it is important to use a backup method of birth control until it can be confirmed that a man's ejaculate does not contain sperm.
Since sperm can linger in the spermatic cord, it is important to use a backup method of birth control until it can be confirmed that a man's ejaculate does not contain sperm.

Another tissue is indirect inguinal hernia, in which the contents of the abdomen push past the inguinal ring. The spermatic cord can be involved in such herniations, with the herniation impinging upon the cord and impeding its function. Surgery can also be used to treat this medical issue and help a man retain his fertility.

Men who experience testicular pain should make an appointment to see a doctor.
Men who experience testicular pain should make an appointment to see a doctor.

In a vasectomy procedure, the spermatic cord is not actually severed. Instead, the vas deferens is severed so that semen cannot travel along it. Because the cord and surrounding structures are left intact, the testes are still fully supported, so changes should not be observed in their position after the procedure. Since sperm can linger in the cord, it is advisable to use a backup method of birth control until a test confirms that a man's ejaculate does not contain sperm.

An inguinal hernia may require surgery.
An inguinal hernia may require surgery.

Men who experience testicular pain or pain in their abdomens should make an appointment to see a doctor. If the pain is caused by torsion, permanent damage can happen in a matter of hours. A hernia is a less serious emergent condition, but one which still needs to be identified and addressed in a timely fashion to reduce the risk of complications.

A man who experiences pain in his testicles should be examined by a doctor.
A man who experiences pain in his testicles should be examined by a doctor.
The cause of testicular pain may be detected during an ultrasound screening.
The cause of testicular pain may be detected during an ultrasound screening.
Men with testicular pain may also experience pain in their abdomen.
Men with testicular pain may also experience pain in their abdomen.
Abdominal pain caused by torsion may cause permanent damage in a matter of hours.
Abdominal pain caused by torsion may cause permanent damage in a matter of hours.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

geekish

@amysamp - Turns out swollen testes can be testicular torsion which is considered a serious condition.

With such being said, calling 911 is in order for swollen testes! Though I am sure you would be hard up to find a guy that would fight you on that one.

amysamp

If you have a swollen testicle, might you have testicular torsion? Or is it only when you are having spermatic cord pain that you have testicular torsion.

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