Critical Info for Moms of Boys
by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Hanes, DO
It is 2 am, and your 10-year-old is complaining of a tummy ache. Half-asleep you comfort him, pat his tummy, and help him settle back to sleep. A short while later, he vomits in his bed. Amidst the clean up and fresh sheets, you begin to realize he looks a little more sick than a typical “bug.” You pack your things and trek to the local emergency department. Hopefully, you go to a reputable center with board certified emergency physicians who will know to ask the right questions and help your son. All too often, however, as a board certified emergency physician, I have encountered patients that have been assuaged by other doctors that everything was fine, and they were dismissed home with an upset stomach, when the real cause of the vomiting was gravely more serious.
The question you and your physician need to ask a young boy with abdominal pain and/or vomiting is, “Do your testicles hurt?” Those remiss in asking this question could wind up hours later in the waiting area for the operating room as their son has a testicle permanently removed by the surgeon.
The condition causing this phenomenon is called testicular torsion. It is caused by the twisting of the spermatic cord that can cause the loss of blood flow to the testicle. Time is of the essence because after four to six hours without proper blood flow, the testicle can begin to die, often necessitating its removal (called an orchiectomy). It most commonly occurs in young men ages 12-18, but can happen at any age.
As men mature into adults, testicle pain is one of the few conditions that will bring them to the emergency department. However, younger boys are less likely to volunteer the information for several reasons. It may be their first time to experience pain in the area and they cannot describe the sensation. They may not share the information because they are too embarrassed to discuss the issue. Additionally, adolescent males may fear it is connected to sexual activity, masturbation, or erection and feel they caused the pain, thus attempt to hide the information from his parents.
Therefore, a simple question can truly make a difference in his life. For older children simply asking about testicle pain is usually adequate. For younger children, use the words common in your home, like “Do you have pain in your private area?” or “Does it hurt in your underwear?” The physician can often make a diagnosis with a simple exam and verify it with an ultrasound. If caught early, there are treatment options available rather than waiting too long and undergoing a complete removal of the testicle.
As an emergency physician, I encourage you to share this information with your friends and parents of boys. It might just be the questions that changes his life, forever.
Bio: Dr. Jennifer Hanes is a board certified emergency and forensic physician in Austin, Texas. She shares her motherhood journey through Mommy MD Guides as a physician expert and blogger. She has lost 70 pounds, and she outlines those secrets in her upcoming book, The Princess Plan (Nov 2012). You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com