Test Overview

A testicular scan uses a special camera to take
pictures of the
testicles after a
radioactive tracer builds up in testicular tissues
(nuclear medicine test).

During a
testicular scan, the tracer is injected into a vein in your arm. It
travels through your blood to the
testicles. Parts of the testicles where the tracer
builds up in abnormal amounts may be a sign of some types of tumors. The tracer
may also show where there is a pocket of fluid (cyst) or
infection (abscess).

A scan may be done
in an emergency to find out the cause of sudden, painful swelling of a
testicle. That problem can be caused by a twisted cord in the testicle.
This condition is called
testicular torsion. Get medical
care and treatment right away if you have this problem.

Testicular
ultrasound has largely replaced these scans to
look for testicular torsion and tumors.

Why It Is Done

A testicular scan is done to:

  • Find out the cause of a painful, swollen
    testicle.
  • Check for damage to the testicles caused by an
    injury.
  • Look at the flow of blood within the testicles.

How To Prepare

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for the scan.

You may be asked to sign a consent form before
the test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need
for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To
help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the
medical test information form (What is a PDF document?).

How It Is Done

A testicular scan is usually done by a
nuclear medicine technologist. The scan pictures are usually looked at by a
radiologist or
nuclear medicine specialist.

You will
need to remove any jewelry that might get in the way of the scan. You may need to
take off all or most of your clothes. You will be given a cloth or paper
covering to use during the test.

The technologist cleans the site
on your arm where the radioactive tracer will be injected. A small amount of
the tracer is then injected.

You will lie on your
back on a table. Your penis will be taped to your belly to keep it out of the way of the scan. A sling or towel may be used to support the
testicles under the scanner. After the tracer is injected, the
camera will scan for radiation released by the tracer. The camera produces pictures of
the tracer in your testicles. Two scans are done about 15 minutes apart. You
need to lie very still during each scan to avoid blurring the pictures. The
camera does not produce any radiation. You are not exposed to any more
radiation while the scan is being done.

The scan takes
about 45 minutes.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the
needle puncture when the tracer is injected. Or you may feel a brief sting or
pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Otherwise, a testicular scan is
usually painless. You may find it hard to stay still during the
scan, especially if your testicles are sore. Before the scan, ask for a pillow or blanket to
make yourself as comfortable as possible.

Risks

Allergic reactions to the radioactive tracer are rare. Most of the tracer will leave your body (through your urine or stool) within a day. So be
sure to flush the toilet right after you use it. And wash your hands well with soap and
water. The amount of radiation is small. This means it isn’t a risk for people to
come in contact with you after the test.

You may get some
soreness or swelling at the injection site. This can
usually be relieved by putting a warm, moist cloth on your arm.

There is always a very slight risk of damage to cells or tissue from
being exposed to any radiation. This includes the low level of radiation released
by the tracer used for this test.

Results

A testicular scan uses a special camera to take
pictures of the
testicles after a
radioactive tracer builds up in testicular tissues
(nuclear medicine test). The results of the
scan are usually available within 2 days. In an emergency, results can be
ready within 1 hour.

Testicular scan
Normal:

The radioactive tracer flows evenly through
the testicles. The tracer does not build up in any area of the
testicles.

Abnormal:

The tracer does not flow evenly through the
testicles. This may be a sign of narrowing, blockage, or damage in the blood vessels
in the testicles. This could mean that blood flow has been reduced by a
twisted cord inside the testicle. This is called
testicular torsion.

Areas where the tracer builds up in an
abnormal amount could be a sign of a condition such as a
cyst, a tumor, a pocket of infection (abscess), a blood clot, or swelling of the tubes
(ducts) that carry sperm (epididymis). This swelling is called
epididymitis.

What Affects the Test

The results of the
scan may not be accurate if you can’t stay still during the test.

What To Think About

  • Testicular
    ultrasound has largely replaced testicular scans to
    look for testicular torsion or tumors in the
    testicles. To learn more, see the topic Testicular Ultrasound.
  • Abnormal results from a testicular scan may be checked further by other tests. These include a testicular
    biopsy, an ultrasound test, and
    X-ray tests.
  • If the scan is done
    for a young boy, a parent can be with him.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
  • Pagana KD, Pagana TJ (2010). Mosby’s Manual of Diagnostic and Laboratory Tests, 4th ed. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD – Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Christopher G. Wood, MD, FACS – Urology, Oncology

Current as ofOctober 9, 2017