Clinical risk factors for testicular torsion and a warning against falsely reassuring ultrasound scans: a 10-year single-centre experience

Emerg Med J. 2023 Feb;40(2):134-139. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2021-211946. Epub 2022 Dec 16.


Background: We sought to determine which demographic, clinical and ultrasonography characteristics are predictive of testicular torsion (TT) and to determine factors associated with time to treatment.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed all medical records of patients (0-17 years) with acute scrotal syndrome (ASS) who were treated in our hospital in Lithuania between 2011 and 2020. We extracted patients' demographic data, in-hospital time intervals, clinical, US and surgical findings. TT was determined at surgery or clinically after manual detorsion. Test characteristics of demographic, clinical and US findings for the diagnosis of TT versus other causes of ASS were determined. We performed a multivariate analysis to identify independent clinical predictors of torsion, and factors associated with surgical delay.

Results: A search of medical records yielded 555 cases: 196 (35%) patients with TT and 359 (65%) patients with other ASS causes. Multivariate logistic regression analysis showed that age between 13 and 17 years (OR 8.39; 95% CI 5.12 to 13.76), duration of symptoms <7 hours (OR 3.41; 95% CI 2.03 to 5.72), palpated hard testis (OR 4.65; 95% CI 2.02 to 10.67), scrotal swelling (OR 2.37; 95% CI 1.31 to 4.30), nausea/vomiting (OR 4.37; 95% CI 2.03 to 9.43), abdominal pain (OR 2.38; 95% CI 1.27 to 4.45) were independent clinical predictors of TT. No testicular blood flow in Doppler US had a specificity of 98.2% and a positive predictive value of 94.6%. However, 75 (41.7%) patients with TT had normal testicular blood flow, yielding low sensitivity (58.3%) and negative predictive value of 81.3% for this US finding. In-hospital waiting time for surgery was longer in patients with TT with normal testicular blood flow by USS (195 min) compared with no blood flow (123 min), p<0.01. Higher orchiectomy rates were associated with longer duration of symptoms (p<0.001) and longer waiting time for USS (p=0.029) but not with false-negative US.

Conclusions: Pubertal age, symptoms duration of <7 hours, nausea/vomiting, palpated hard testis, abdominal pain and scrotal swelling are predictive factors for TT. Time lost between symptom onset and seeking medical care, and between arrival and US are associated with the need for orchiectomy. Preserved blood flow in USS does not rule out TT and may contribute to delays to surgery.

Keywords: pediatric emergency medicine; pediatrics; ultrasonography; urogenital system.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain
  • Adolescent
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spermatic Cord Torsion* / diagnostic imaging
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler