Torsion of an undescended testis - A surgical pediatric emergency

J Pediatr Surg. 2020 Apr;55(4):660-664. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2019.06.018. Epub 2019 Jun 28.


Background/purpose: Torsion of an undescended testis is a surgical emergency whose frequency may be underestimated in the pediatric population. We describe this entity and focus on diagnostic challenges and optimal treatment of torsion of an undescended testis.

Methods: We present a two-center retrospective chart review of patients with torsion of an undescended testis treated between 2013 and 2018. Two instructive cases are used to depict characteristics of this rare entity.

Results: We identified 11 patients with previously diagnosed cryptorchidism undergoing surgery for torsion of an undescended testis, accounting for 9.7% (11/107) of all testicular torsions in the period. Mean age at diagnosis was 9.4 months (1-22 months). Mean duration from onset of symptoms to presentation was 19.3 h (8-48 h). At admission to hospital 10 patients presented with groin lump (10/11, 90.9%) with or without pain leading to a suspected diagnosis of inguinal testicular torsion (5/11, 45.5%), incarcerated inguinal hernia (4/11, 36.4%) and epididymitis (1/11, 9.1%). Ten patients had an ultrasound examination before surgery leading to the correct diagnosis in six patients. Ultrasound findings were misinterpreted as incarcerated inguinal hernia in three patients. In eight patients the testis had to be removed at time of surgery; one of the three salvaged testes atrophied, resulting in a salvage rate of 18%.

Conclusion: Torsion of an inguinal testis is not as rare as it might be presumed. Presentation of these patients is often deferred owing to equivocal signs and symptoms. In addition age at presentation differs from typical testicular torsion. As this might negatively influence testicular salvage rate, we advocate for special attention to this differential diagnosis in children with groin pathologies. Even if the child is not in pain, a tender groin in boys with undescended testes must prompt a quick and thorough examination to rule out torsion of an undescended testis. Ultrasound examination is of limited value and must not delay acute surgical treatment.

Level of evidence: IV.

Keywords: Children; Testicular torsion; Undescended testis.

MeSH terms

  • Cryptorchidism / complications*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Epididymitis / pathology
  • Hernia, Inguinal / pathology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salvage Therapy
  • Spermatic Cord Torsion / surgery*
  • Testis / pathology