Testicular Torsion is a condition that can occur when the tissues around the testicle are not normally attached, potentially causing the testicle to twist around the spermatic cord.
When this happens, the torsion of the cord cuts off the blood flow to the testicle. It typically produces pain and swelling, and if left untreated for a prolonged period of time (more than 6 to 10 hours), it will permanently damage the testicle. This condition is always an emergency.
Most people don't know that 4 out of 10 young men who have testicular torsion will lose the affected testicle, usually because of a delay in the recognition of the condition. If medical care is not sought within a given time period, the patient could lose the testicle.
Many hospitals have plans in place to emergently take care of patients with torsion to minimize the possible loss of testicles. We've learned from many patients who delayed in seeking care for torsion had never heard of this condition before. Too many patients are not aware that testicular pain may be caused by torsion, and that prompt aid is needed to save the testicle.
Many young men feel insecure or ashamed when they experience testicular pain. If they're unaware of how dire this condition is, they will try to "wait it out." This decision could lead to the loss of the testicle.
We've come up with the phrase "the patient is the gatekeeper for testicular torsion". If the young man is aware of the condition of torsion, he is more likely to seek medical attention early after the onset of pain.
Spreading awareness of testicular torsion should take place during medical office visits with adolescent males, at schools, sports teams and social media. These efforts to increase awareness of the condition could raise the chances to save testicles.
Dr. T. Ernesto Figueroa is Division Chief of Pediatric Urology at the Nemours Children's Health System in Wilmington, Del.