What It Is A scrotal ultrasound is a safe and painless test that uses sound waves to make images of the scrotum (the pouch of skin at the base of the penis that contains the testicles). During the examination, an ultrasound machine sends sound waves into the scrotum and images are recorded on a computer. The black-and-white images show the internal structures of the scrotum, such as the testicles, the epididymis (the tube that collects sperm made by a testicle), and the spermatic cord (the tube that connects a testicle to the inside of the body). Why It's Done Doctors order a scrotal ultrasound when they're concerned about symptoms such as scrotal pain or swelling. A scrotal ultrasound can show: the size of the testicles signs of injury to the testicles abnormally swollen veins in the scrotum (varicocele) fluid collection around the testicle (hydrocele) twisting of the testicle, which cuts off its blood supply (testicular torsion) infection or inflammation in the epididymis (epidydimitis) or in the testicle (orchitis) a cyst or tumor in the scrotum an absent or undescended testicle Preparation Usually, no special preparation is needed for a scrotal ultrasound. You should tell the technician about any medications your son is taking before the test begins. Procedure The scrotal ultrasound will be done in the radiology department of a hospital or in a radiology center. Parents are usually able to accompany their child to provide reassurance. Your son will be asked to change into a cloth gown and lie on a table. The room is usually dark so the images can be seen clearly on the computer screen. A technician (sonographer) trained in ultrasound imaging will spread a clear, warm gel on the skin of the scrotum, which helps with the transmission of the sound waves. The technician will then gently move a small wand (transducer) over the gel. The transducer emits high-frequency sound waves and a computer measures how they bounce back from the body. The computer changes those sound waves into images to be analyzed. Sometimes, the doctor will come in at the end of the test to meet your son and take a few more pictures. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes. What to Expect The scrotal ultrasound is painless. However, if the area is tender, the light pressure applied to move the transducer over the scrotum might be uncomfortable. Ask your son to lie still during the procedure so the sound waves can produce the proper images. Babies might cry in the ultrasound room, especially if they're restrained, but this won't interfere with the procedure. Getting the Results A radiologist (a doctor who's specially trained in reading and interpreting X-ray, ultrasound, and other imaging studies) will interpret the ultrasound results and then give the information to the doctor, who will review them with you. If the test results appear abnormal, the doctor may order further tests. In an emergency, the results of an ultrasound can be available quickly. Otherwise, they're usually ready in 1-2 days. In most cases, results can't be given directly to the patient or family at the time of the test. Risks No risks are associated with a scrotal ultrasound. Unlike X-rays, radiation isn't involved with this test. Helping Your Child Some younger kids may be afraid of the machinery used for the ultrasound. Explaining in simple terms how the scrotal ultrasound will be conducted and why it's being done can help ease any fear. You can tell your son that the equipment takes pictures of his scrotum and testicles. Encourage your son to ask the technician questions and to try to relax during the procedure, as tense muscles can make it more difficult to get accurate results. If You Have Questions If you have questions about the scrotal ultrasound, speak with your doctor. You can also talk to the technician before the exam. Back to Articles Related Articles A to Z: Hydrocele A hydrocele is a collection of fluid around the testicle within the scrotum. Read More A to Z: Varicocele (Scrotal Varices) A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Read More PQ: I have a lump on one of my testicles. What should I do? Find out the answer to this personal question! Read More A to Z: Scrotal Pain, Acute A variety of things can cause pain in the scrotum (also called scrotal pain), the pouch-like structure at the base of a boy's penis. Read More A to Z: Cryptorchidism Cryptorchidism is a condition in which one or both of a boy's testicles (testes) have not moved into their proper place in the scrotum. Read More Word! Undescended Testicle Undescended testicle is a condition in which one or both of a boy's testicles have not moved into their proper place in the scrotum. Read More Undescended Testicles Shortly before birth, a boy's testicles usually descend into the scrotum. When a testicle doesn't make the move, this is called cryptorchidism, or undescended testicles. Read More Testicular Injuries Serious testicular injuries are relatively uncommon, but testicular injury can be painful. Read this to find out what steps you can take to protect yourself from injury. Read More Testicular Exams If you're a guy, you may be wondering why the doctor needs to do a testicular exam. Find out in this article. Read More How to Do a Testicular Self-Exam (Slideshow) The testicular self-examination (TSE) is an easy way for guys to check their own testicles to make sure there aren't any unusual lumps or bumps - which are usually the first sign of testicular cancer. Read More Varicocele A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum. Although there is no way to prevent a varicocele, it usually needs no special treatment. Read More Male Reproductive System Understanding the male reproductive system and what it does can help you better understand your son's reproductive health. Read More Testicular Torsion This emergency condition causes extreme genital pain and usually requires surgery to save a boy's testicle. If your son has groin pain, get him to a doctor right away. Read More Testicular Torsion This emergency condition happens when the spermatic cord gets twisted and cuts off blood supply, causing pain and swelling. Find out what to do in this article for teens. Read More Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor. © 1995-2021 KidsHealth®. All rights reserved. Images provided by The Nemours Foundation, iStock, Getty Images, Veer, Shutterstock, and Clipart.com.