Testicular Torsion

Learning Objectives

  1. List the differential diagnosis for an acutely painful scrotum.
  2. Understand the anatomical basis of testicular torsion.
  3. List common presenting signs and symptoms of testicular torsion.
  4. Describe both initial and definitive management of testicular torsion.
  5. Explain why torsion is an emergent condition and discuss the time for salvage of the testicle.

Some cases to start with:

  1. 14 year male presents with testicular pain  upon awakening that morning. He has had several episodes of similar pain that resolved spontaneously in the past, but this time the pain is persisting.
  2. 23 year man complains of three days of painful urination and a swollen testicle.

Acute Scrotum

Testicular torsionAppendage torsion
Fournier’s gangreneAcute epididymitis
Abdominal aortic aneurysmTesticular/scrotal abscess
Traumatic testicular ruptureTesticular cancer with bleeding
Peritonitis with patent processus vaginalisRenal colic
Incarcerated inguinal herniaHydrocele
 Henoch-Schonlein Purpura

By age:


  • Hernia
  • Hydrocele


  • Hernia
  • Torsion
  • Epididymitis


  • Epididymitis
  • Torsion
  • Trauma


  • Epididymitis
  • Hernia
  • Trauma
  • Tumor torsion

Commonest causes:

  • Responsible for 0.5% of total ED visits.
  • 85-90% cases: Appendage torsion + Testicular torsion + Acute epididymitis
  • 75% cases: Testicular torsion + Acute epididymitis
  • 25% cases: Testicular torsion (1:4000 males; peak age ~14 yrs)
  • M/C cause: Acute epididymitis

Special signs and Techniques

examination testis1. Cremasteric reflex

  • Stroking ipsilateral inner thigh – reflex elevation of testicle
  • Absence of ipsilateral reflex – think testicular torsion
  • Presence – 96% NPV for torsion

2. Prehn’s sign

  • Relief of pain with scrotal elevation
  • Thought to be positive in epididymitis (not reliable)

3. Blue dot sign

  • Infarcted appendage (blue dot) seen through scrotal skin
  • Think of appendage torsion

Relevant Anatomy

Normal Testicular fixation in Scrotum:

1.Tunica vaginalis to Scrotal ligament (Gubernaculum)

2.Posterior part of testis (not layered by tunica vaginalis) to scrotum by mesorchium

Increased mobility of testis:

  1. Defect in normal fixation mechanism
  2. Long mesorchium
  3. Exercise or Trauma
  4. Puberty: Increased weight and vascularity

testicular torsion anatomy

Cremasteric spasm:

Rapid cremaster contraction → elevation +/- rotation of testicle

  • Cremaster = Internal oblique muscles
  • Inserts into spermatic cord in spiral fashion
  • Abdominal muscle contraction = Cremaster contraction
  • Association with blunt abdominal trauma and straining

Winter syndrome: During winter when males are in bed

  • Scrotum relaxed in warmth → Testicles freely mobile → Testicles twist Ă  Sudden exposure to cold → Contracts quickly → Torsion

Sleep: Strong cremasteric reflex associated with nocturnal erections

Types of Testicular Torsion

testicular torsion types

1. Extravaginal (perinatal period)

  • Scrotal ligament not developed
  • Prenatal = “vanishing” testis

2. Intravaginal (after perinatal period) – more common

  • Bell-clapper deformity (in upto 12% asymptomatic men)
  • Long mesorchium

Pathophysiology of Testicular Torsiontesticular torsion pathophysiology

Mikuz Histologic Grading of Testicular Torsion

1Intertubular edema, limited blood extravasation, desquamation of germ cells<4 hours
2Diffuse intertubular hemorrhage, focal necrosis of the germ cells4-8 hours
3Diffuse infarction of parenchyma>12 hours

Features Suggestive of Testicular Torsion

  • Severe acute testicular pain +/- nausea & vomiting (26-60%)
  • Prophetic pain (self-limiting previous episodes)
  • Affected testicle lies high up (Deming’s sign; 26-80%)
  • Horizontal lie of contralateral testicle (Angell’s sign; 25-90%)
  • Anterior position of epididymis rather than posterior
  • Absent cremasteric reflex (40-100%)
  • Reactive hydrocele (52%); Fever (infarction; 8-41%)

In adolescent boys with lower abdominal pain examine external genitalia to rule out scrotal or testicular pathology. Non-scrotal/abdominal pain accounts for 5-25% cases in cases of acute testicular torsion.

TWIST score

Testicular swelling2
Hard testicle2
Absent cremasteric reflex1
Nausea or vomiting1
High-riding testicle1

PPV 100% when >5 points (Suggesting stat urological consult)

NPV 100% when <2 points (Suggesting clinical clearance)

Scores from 2-5 patients require U/S for further assessment

Time is Testicle

DurationSalvage rate
<6 hrs90-100%
12-24 hrs20-50%
>24 hrs0-10%
TorsionInfarction onset
32 hours
112-24 hours
<1>24 hours

Clinically – Complete vs Incomplete? – Difficult to determine

Surgery – reduces pain and other symptoms’ duration

Don’t rely on symptoms duration. All require emergent urologic evaluation.

Imaging in Testicular Torsion


1.Clinical doubt as to the cause

2.Failure to respond to treatment

Clinical setting of testicular torsion – USG shouldn’t delay intervention

Gold-standard: Color Doppler USG

Uncertain perfusion on color Doppler USG: Nuclear medicine scan

Gray-scale USG

whirlpool sign testicular torsion

Abnormal spermatic cord twist (Whirlpool sign)

  • Sensitivity: 96%

Normal linear cord (In patients without torsion)

  • Specificity: 99%

Normal homogenous echo pattern = Viable testis

Hypoechoic/Inhomogenous echo pattern = Non-viable testis

Color Doppler USG

Sensitivity: 96-100%; Specificity: 84%-95%

testicular torsion doppler

Incomplete torsion:

  • Elevated resistive index (>0.75)
  • To-and-fro flow

Complete torsion: Absence of blood flow in testis and epididymis

Nuclear Medicine Scan

Tc-99m Pertechnetate

Sensitivity: 80-90%

Specificity: 90-100%

Early: Nubbin sign (Abrupt cut-off of iliac a.)

Late: Halo/Rim/Dough-not sign

Manual Detorsion of Testis

Steps for manual detorsion of testis in testicular torsion has been discussed here.

Definitive Management of Testicular Torsion

  • Surgical detorsion and bilateral orchipexy to the scrotum.
  • Contralateral orchipexy is obligatory.

Informed consent prior to surgical exploration:

  1. Removal or fixation of affected testis depending upon viability
  2. Fixation of contralateral testis should the diagnosis of torsion prove correct
  3. Testicular atrophy (upto 68%) even following surgery
  4. Subfertility – abnormal semen analysis in 50-87%

Answer to the cases we began with:

1. A 14-year-old male presents to ED with complaints of testicular pain upon awakening that morning. He has had several episodes of similar pain that resolved spontaneously in the past, but this time the pain is persisting.

Ans: Testicular torsion

2. A 23-year-old man complains of three days of painful urination and a swollen testicle.

Ans: Epididymo-orchitis

Take Home Messages

Time is Muscle!! (Myocardial infarction)
Time is Brain!! (Stroke)
Time is Testicle!! (Testicular torsion)

Castration by procrastination.

When in doubt, check it out (explore).

MCQs on Testicular Torsion

Comment down the best choices:

1. Regarding testicular torsion, which ONE of the following statements is TRUE?

A. It is mostly due to lateral rotation of the spermatic cord

B. The cremasteric reflex is always absent

C. It can be reliably excluded with scrotal ultrasound scan

D. It can be associated with a fever

2. Testicular torsion of at least _____ degrees is necessary for complete arterial occlusion?

A. 180

B. 360

C. 520

D. 720

3. What is Angell’s sign?

A. High riding contralateral testis

B. Twisted spermatic cord on affected side

C. Horizontal lie of testis on contralateral side

D. Horizontal life of testis on affected side

4. An adult patient presents with recurrent severe testicular pain with spontaneous resolution. Testis was found to have horizontal lie on examination. Urine analyses and culture were normal. Doppler reveals hyper-perfused testis. What is the best management for this patient?

A. Antibiotics

B. Conservative management with scrotal support and analgesia

C. Orchiopexy

D. No treatment needed


Halls GD, Dietrich T, Ford D. Diagnosis and Emergency Department Management of Urologic Emergencies in the Male Patient: Part I [Internet]. AHC Media - Continuing Medical Education Publishing. 2002 [cited 2017Dec30]. Available from: https://www.ahcmedia.com/articles/118262-diagnosis-and-emergency-department-management-of-urologic-emergencies-in-the-male-patient-part-i

Jezek D. Atlas on the Human Testis. 1st ed. London: Springer London; 2013.

Sandler M. Diagnostic nuclear medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2003.

Salem A, H A. An Illustrated Guide to Pediatric Urology. 1st ed. Switzerland: Springer International; 2017.

King C, Henretig F, Young C. Textbook of Pediatric Emergency Procedures. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2007.

N, O'Flynn KJ, Pearce I. Testicular torsion: a urological emergency. Trends in Urology; Men's Health. 2010; 1(1): 31-4

3 Viewpoints đź’¬ on “Testicular Torsion”

  1. Explanation for the MCQs:

    1. Lateral rotation of spermatic cord – Only 1/3rd cases
    Doppler USG has both false positives and negatives
    Nausea, vomiting and fever – 20% cases

    2. Complete arterial occlusion occurs at 450-540 degrees of rotation. – Ma and Mateer’s emergency Ultrasound (3rd edition)
    However complete torsion is defined as ≥360 degrees.

    3. In cases of torsion due to long mesorchium. Horizontal position of testicle will not be appreciable in the affected side but will be appreciable on the opposite side. A gap may also be felt between the testis and epididymis.

    4. Suggestive of Intermittent testicular torsion. Scrotal orchidopexy proved to be superior to conservative measures in cases of ITT in adults. – Al-Kandari AM, Kehinde EO, Khudair S, Ibrahim H, ElSheemy MS, Shokeir AA. Intermittent Testicular Torsion in Adults: An Overlooked Clinical Condition. Medical Principles and Practice. 2017;26(1):30-34. doi:10.1159/000450887.

Write your Viewpoint đź’¬

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.