Unusual Cause of a Painful Right Testicle in a 16-year-old Man: A Case Report

Khalid N Shehzad; Amjid A Riaz


J Med Case Reports. 2011;5(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Introduction: Urgent surgical exploration of the scrotum of a child or teenager who presents with a painful and swollen testicle is paramount if testicular torsion is not to be missed. It is extremely rare for a non-scrotal pathology to present with acute scrotal signs. Here we present such a rare case and emphasize the importance of being aware of this potential clinical pitfall.
Case presentation: A 16-year-old Caucasian man presented as a surgical emergency with a five to six hour history of a painful, red, and swollen right hemiscrotum. He also complained of vague lower abdominal pain, vomiting, and watery diarrhea. He had a temperature of 38.5°C and a tender, red, and swollen right hemiscrotum. The right testicle appeared elevated. He was mildly tender in his central and upper abdomen and less so in the lower abdomen. No convincing localizing abdominal signs were noted. He had an increased white cell count (15 × 109/L) and C-reactive protein (CRP; 300 mg/L). Urgent right hemiscrotal exploration revealed about 5 ml of pus in the tunica vaginalis and a normal testicle. A right iliac fossa incision identified the cause: a perforated retrocecal appendix. Appendectomy was performed, and both the abdomen and scrotum washed copiously with saline before closure. The patient made an uneventful recovery.
Conclusion: Acute appendicitis presenting with scrotal signs due to a patent processus vaginalis is an extremely rare clinical entity. To date, fewer than five such cases have been reported in the medical literature. It is, therefore, extremely important to be aware of this unusual clinical scenario, as only a high index of suspicion will enable prompt, successful management of both the appendicitis and the scrotal abscess.


A painful, swollen testicle is a common surgical emergency, especially in young children and teenagers. The diagnosis that must be excluded is testicular torsion. Prompt surgical exploration of the scrotum is important, as delay can jeopardize the viability of a twisted testicle. It is very rare for a non-testicular pathology to present with acute scrotal signs. Such an unusual clinical conundrum can easily confuse the clinician. Clinical astuteness and a high index of suspicion are paramount if successful management is to be instituted.

Case Presentation

We present the case of a 16-year-old Caucasian man who attended the acute admissions unit of our hospital with a history of an acutely painful, red, and swollen right hemiscrotum for about five to six hours. No history of testicular trauma was elicited. He also complained of vague, generalized abdominal pain, somewhat worse in the periumbilical region and lower abdomen, and vomiting and watery diarrhea for about 24 hours.

He had a temperature of 38.5°C and pulse rate of 95 per minute. On examination, his right testicle was tender and somewhat elevated, and the right hemiscrotum, red and swollen. Abdominal examination evinced mild tenderness in his epigastrium and central abdomen, and less so in the right iliac fossa and suprapubic area. No convincing localizing abdominal signs were noted. Blood tests showed a white cell count of 15 × 109/L, neutrophilia, and C-reactive protein of about 300 mg/L.

Clinically, testicular torsion could not be excluded, and, on account of his young age and scrotal signs, a decision was made to explore the scrotum. At surgery, on opening the right tunica vaginalis, approximately 5 ml of pus was found, apparently coming down from the right groin. His right testicle appeared entirely normal. The scrotal abscess was drained, the area washed thoroughly with saline, and the scrotal wall closed in two layers with absorbable sutures. A Lanz incision was made to explore his right iliac fossa. It was found that he had a perforated retrocecal appendix, resulting in an abscess extending into the pelvis. The appendix was excised and the abdominopelvic abscess drained. Thorough saline lavage was performed, and the wound was closed without insertion of an abdominal drain. He was given three days of postoperative intravenous antibiotics.

The patient made an excellent recovery and was well at clinic follow-up four weeks later.


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