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Spermatocele (/spɜːrˈmætəsl/[1][2]) is a retention cyst of a tubule of the rete testis or the head of the epididymis distended with barely watery fluid that contains spermatozoa. Small spermatoceles are relatively common, occurring in an estimated 30 percent of all men[3]. They vary in size from several millimeters to many centimeters. Spermatoceles are generally not painful. However, some men may experience discomfort from larger spermatoceles. They are not cancerous, nor do they cause an increased risk of testicular cancer. Additionally, unlike varicoceles, they do not have a negative impact on fertility[4].

Causes

Spermatoceles can originate as diverticulum from the tubules found in the head of the epididymis. Sperm formation gradually causes the diverticulum to increase in size, causing a spermatocele. They are due to continuity between the epididymis and tunica vaginalis.

They are also believed to result from epididymitis, physical trauma, or vasectomy[5]. Scarring of any part of the epididymis can cause it to become obstructed and in turn form a spermatocele[6].

Diagnosis

Micrograph of a spermatocele. The characteristic sperm are present (black dots - left of image). H&E stain.

Spermatoceles can be discovered as incidental scrotal masses found on physical examination by a physician. They may also be discovered by self-inspection of the scrotum and testicles.

Finding a painless, cystic mass at the head of the epididymis, that transilluminates and can be clearly differentiated from the testicle, is generally sufficient. If uncertainty exists, ultrasonography of the scrotum can confirm if it is spermatocele.

If an individual finds what he suspects to be a spermatocele, he is advised to consult a urologist.

Treatment

Small cysts are best left alone, as are larger cysts that are an asymptomatic condition. Only when the cysts are causing discomfort and are enlarging in size, or the patient wants the spermatocele removed, should a spermatocelectomy be considered. Pain may persist even after removal.

Spermatocelectomy can be performed on an outpatient basis, with the use of local or general anesthesia.

A spermatocelectomy will not improve fertility.

References

  1. ^ Entry "spermatocele" in Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
  2. ^ OED 2nd edition, 1989.
  3. ^ "UroPartners - Spermatoceles". www.uropartners.com. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  4. ^ "Urology Care Foundation - What are Spermatoceles (Spermatic Cysts)?". www.urologyhealth.org. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  5. ^ "Spermatocele Prime Health Channel". Prime Health Channel. 2013-01-13. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 
  6. ^ "Spermatocele: Testicular cysts usually need no treatment". Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 2017-11-21. 

See also