The absent cryptorchid testis: surgical findings and their implications for diagnosis and etiology

J Urol. 1994 Mar;151(3):718-20; discussion 720-1. doi: 10.1016/s0022-5347(17)35069-3.


On surgical exploration for impalpable testes, there is often found nothing or a nubbin of tissue at the end of the spermatic vessels. This situation is commonly referred to as an absent testis. Controversy exists on how to establish correctly this diagnosis and the degree of investigation required. In addition, there is disagreement concerning whether an absent testis results from early torsion or endocrinopathic event. What is accepted is that the spermatic vessels are singularly important in establishing testis location. In this study, the pathological findings of 117 cases of absent testis diagnosed by surgical exploration at our hospital were reviewed. This diagnosis represented 10% of 1,225 patients explored for cryptorchidism from 1985 to 1991. Average patient age at operation was 26.8 months (range 5 months to 14 years). Of these children 78 (67%) presented with an impalpable left testis. At operation 3 patients (3%) underwent laparoscopy only, while all others had groin exploration with or without transperitoneal exposure to ensure identification of spermatic vessels. In 110 cases surgical specimens or nubbins were excised. Pathological study of these remnants revealed vas deferens in 89 cases (81%), epididymal tissue in 40 (36%) and small amounts of seminiferous tubules with germinal elements in 7 (6.4%). Only 26 specimens (24%) had sufficient vascular tissue present to be suggestive of spermatic vessels. A significant number showed the presence of calcification (35.5%) and hemosiderin (30%) deposits within the remnant. A subset of patients with absent testis possesses testicular tissue of presumed increased malignant potential. Therefore, surgical exploration with spermatic vessel identification and remnant removal is the gold standard for the diagnosis and treatment of the absent testis. The surgeon continues to be responsible for spermatic vessel identification, since the vessels may be recognized at pathological examination in less than 25% of the cases. Also, the common finding of calcification and hemosiderin lends weight to the torsion etiology over endocrinopathy for an absent testis.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cryptorchidism / diagnosis*
  • Cryptorchidism / surgery
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Testis / abnormalities*
  • Testis / pathology