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In human males, the spermatic cord contains the vas deferens, nerves and blood vessels. Men have two of these structures, one extending from the lower abdomen to each testicle. Problems that may affect the spermatic cord include testicular torsion and indirect inguinal hernia.
The spermatic cord is vital to the function of the testes, as the blood vessels within the cord are the only ones that carry blood to and from the organs. Rarely, the testicle may turn freely within the scrotum. If this occurs, there is a possibility that the cord may also become twisted and cut off blood flow to the testicle, causing cells to die. Testicular torsion requires immediate medical care, as permanent damage and even loss of the testicle may occur in a matter of hours.
Symptoms of testicular torsion include swelling and redness of the affected testicle, pain, and vomiting. These symptoms may occur very suddenly rather than gradually increasing over time. A man with any of these signs, particularly if there is no known cause, should seek emergency medical attention.
Testicular torsion can be treated with surgery only. During the operation, surgeons attach the testicle to the scrotum to restrict its movement. Often, both testes will be surgically fixed in place at the same time. This is because if a man develops torsion in one testicle, he is likely to experience the condition in the other at some point in his life.
Another possible problem with the spermatic cord is indirect inguinal hernia. Before birth, the abdomen and scrotum are connected by a passage known as the inguinal canal. It is through this passage that the testicles descend. During infancy, this passage typically closes. If it does not, part of the intestine or abdominal fat may pass through it, causing an indirect inguinal hernia. This condition also requires immediate medical care, due to the risk of bowel obstruction and tissue death from compromised blood flow.
Indirect inguinal hernias may cause pain, a bulge in the groin and pelvic pressure. More severe symptoms, such as fever, intense pain and reddening of the area, may indicate that the tissue trapped in the inguinal canal is already experiencing a loss of blood supply. Any symptoms of indirect inguinal hernia should be confirmed by a doctor, but the more severe symptoms of this spermatic cord problem indicate an urgent need for medical attention.
Surgery to repair an indirect inguinal hernia is very simple. The surgeon repositions the affected section of intestine or fat in its proper location in the abdomen. The opening in the inguinal canal is then sewn closed to prevent future hernias. Patches may also be affixed over the inguinal canal to strengthen the repaired area further.