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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 24  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 175-177
Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck - Rare differential for vulval swelling

Department of Radiodiagnosis and Imaging, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India

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Date of Web Publication12-Jun-2014


Patent canal of Nuck is one of the rare developmental entities in females, presenting clinically as an inguino-labial swelling. The usual content of this sac is fluid being secreted by the peritoneal mesothelium. In rare cases, ovary alone or with fallopian tube may prolapsed out into the sac. We report the rationale use of diagnostic algorithm in a case of ovarian hernia into the patent canal of Nuck, to differentiate it from more common clinical mimics. Furthermore, in the present case, a knowledge of the entity and targeted scrutiny, led to a correct identification of the prolapsed ovary, preventing an unwarranted oophorectomy in the garb of neoplasia.

Keywords: Canal of Nuck; inguino-labial swelling; ovarian hernia

How to cite this article:
Pandey A, Jain S, Verma A, Jain M, Srivastava A, Shukla RC. Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck - Rare differential for vulval swelling. Indian J Radiol Imaging 2014;24:175-7

How to cite this URL:
Pandey A, Jain S, Verma A, Jain M, Srivastava A, Shukla RC. Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck - Rare differential for vulval swelling. Indian J Radiol Imaging [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Jan 27];24:175-7. Available from:

   Introduction Top

The round ligament in female is attached to the uterine cornu at one end and to the vulva at the other, traversing through the inguinal canal. A small evagination of parietal peritoneum accompanies the ligament throughout the course and is known as the "canal of Nuck" [1] (homologous to the processus vaginalis in males). In routine course, this peritoneal evagination would get completely obliterated during the first year of life; [1],[2] however, an incomplete obliteration results in accumulation and encystment of fluid within. [3],[4] The developmental defect causing hernia of the ovary into the canal of Nuck is of special interest due to the fact that it simulates the normal descent of the testes in the male. The gubernaculum of the ovary, which is attached to the cornu of the uterus, prevents the descent of the ovary into the inguinal canal in normal development. When this mechanism is defective, the gubernaculum may pull the ovary down into the canal of Nuck and, in some cases, into the labium majus. [5] The female gubernaculum is formed by muscle fibers that are not of mesonephric or paramesonephric origin and their attachment to the Mullerian ducts allows or induces the fusion and adequate development of the uterus. Thus, dysfunction of the female gubernacula probably results in female genital tract malformations. [6] Renal anomalies are described in 40% of cases of Mullerian aplasia. [7] We came across, and hereby present, a case having certain unusual features which have not been described in literature to the best of our knowledge.

   Case Report Top

A 42-year-old woman presented to the surgical out-patient services with painless swelling in vulva. On examination, there was a soft, cystic, and non-tender swelling in left labia majora. No thrill or bruit was noted in the swelling. A clinical diagnosis of Bartholin's cyst was put forward and a contrast-enhanced computerized tomography (CECT) scan was advised for further work-up. The CECT images of abdomen and pelvis [Figure 1] showed a large, well-defined, multiloculated, hourglass-shaped cystic structure extending from the left ilio-lumbar region (larger part) across the left inguinal canal to the ipsilateral labia majora (the smaller part of the structure). This followed the exact course of the round ligament and was associated with absence of left kidney along with non-visualization of left ovary at the expected site in the left adnexa. Notably, a rounded solid tissue was also noted along one of the walls of the structure (not well seen on the presented reformatted images), which raised the suspicion of a cystic neoplasia with mural nodule. Hence, a color Doppler USG was planned, which revealed a large, well-defined, solid cystic structure within the left inguinal canal [Figure 2], as was also seen on CECT. Focused evaluation of the solid structure within the cyst showed multiple follicles and a vascular pedicle traceable to the pelvic cavity, suggesting that the structure was the ectopic left ovary which had herniated into the patent canal of Nuck. Surgical excision was done with cosmetic correction of the vulva and repositioning of the ovary (confirmed on surgical biopsy).
Figure 1 (A-D): Contrast-enhanced CT scan reconstructions in axial (A, C, D) and sagittal (B) planes, showing a large cystic lesion in the inguino-pelvic region (straight arrow). Note the narrowed neck (curved arrow) denoting the passage of lesion across the inguinal canal to the labial region. The ovary with clearly delineated follicles is seen in the part of sac outside the pelvic cavity in the inguinal region (hollow arrow in D). Note the empty left renal fossa (in C) confirming left renal agenesis

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Figure 2 (A-C): Color Doppler USG images showing a vascular pedicle of the solid structure in the labial part of hernia sac (curved arrow). This pedicle could be traced to the iliac region up to the internal iliac artery. The solid component (confirmed to be the ovary during surgery) is seen along the posterior wall of the sac (straight arrow). However, high-resolution USG (straight arrow in C) also confirms the solid component to be ovary beyond doubt

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   Discussion Top

Vulval swellings are uncommonly encountered in clinical practice. [6] The common differentials for this clinical entity are an indirect inguinal hernia, a cold abscess, or a hematoma, while rarely cystic lymphangioma, neuroblastoma metastasis to the groin, and ganglion cyst may also be noted in the region. [7],[8],[9],[10],[11],[12] Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck is the cause in 5-12% cases [7],[8] and is a rare vulval swelling. The latter usually presents with inguino-pelvic swelling due to the presence of an inguinal hernia of the fluid-filled sac. CECT scan is the preferred modality for evaluation of this pathology (and for inguino-pelvic swellings as such), whereby it appears as a thin-walled homogeneous fluid-filled unilocular cyst. [3],[9] The communication via the inguinal canal may, at times, be difficult to identify on CT. [3],[10],[13] Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can give a more lucid depiction of the entity, including demonstration of a communication between the cystic lesion and peritoneal cavity and information on the anatomical relation with adjacent structures. [4],[14] In addition to the above mentioned features, absence of left kidney and non-visualization of left ovary (at the expected site) were also noted, which have not been documented as such. This may be most probably due to co-existent anomaly in the development of the Wolffian duct, which evolves almost at the same time and under the influence of similar factors as the Mullerian system. [14] Though matching the description of a typical hydrocele of the canal of Nuck, herniation of ovary within the hydrocele sac was an unusual finding in the present case, with only few reports in the literature. [6] In less than one-third of patients, one or the other of visceral structures may be prolapsed within the patent sac, a part of urinary bladder being the commonest. [15] Ovary alone or fallopian tubes along with ovary may be seen as the contents in 15-20% cases. [6]

There are three types of hydrocele of canal of Nuck. The most common type is one with no communication with the peritoneal cavity, forming an encysted hydrocele along the tract of descent, from the inguinal ring to the vulva. The second type results when there is a persistent communication with the peritoneal cavity. The third type is a combination of the two as a result of the inguinal ring constricting the hydrocele like a belt, so that a part is communicating and a part is enclosed, giving this the name of hourglass type. However, any of these types of hydroceles is extremely rare in females. [12] Variants of the typical hourglass lesion include a bilocular hydrocele formed due to obliteration of the constricted segment at the internal inguinal ring. [4],[16] The highlight of this case is the presence of ovary as the content of the hydrocele sac, which created an initial dilemma of a neoplastic pathology (on CT scan) and was cleared up on color Doppler. This expresses the utility of the two modalities in tandem for better evaluation of the pathology.

Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck is a rare developmental disorder, but it ought to be in the differential diagnosis list of vulval and inguinal cystic swelling in female patients. A rational algorithm consisting of Doppler USG and CECT/MRI, along with knowledge of this entity can help to differentiate the same from other conditions presenting with swelling in the inguino-labial region. MRI is the preferred modality over CT scan as it gives better soft tissue details and is also free of radiation hazards. Association of renal and other Mullerian agenesis mandates a thorough screening of the region in patients of hydrocele of the canal of Nuck and vice versa.

   References Top

1.Anderson CC, Broadie TA, Mackey JE, Kopecky KK. Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck: ultrasound appearance. Am Surg 1995;61:959-61.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Schwartz A, Peyser MR. Nuck's hydrocele. Int Surg 1975;60:91-2.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Khanna PC, Ponsky T, Zagol B, Lukish JR, Markle BM. Sonographic appearance of canal of Nuck hydrocele. Pediatr Radiol 2007;37:603-6.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Park SJ, Lee HK, Hong HS, Kim HC, Kim DH, Park JS, et al. Hydrocele of the canal of Nuck in a girl: Ultrasound and MR appearance. Br J Radiol 2004;77:243-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Chandrasekharan LV, Rajagopal AS. The hydrocele of the canal of Nuck: An ultrasound diagnosis. Int J Radiol 2006;4:2  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Huang CS, Luo CC, Chao HC, Chu SM, Yu YJ, Yen JB. The presentation of asymptomatic palpable movable mass in female inguinal hernia. Eur J Pediatr 2003;162:493-5.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.De Meulder F, Wojciechowski M, Hubens G, Ramet J. Female hydrocele of the canal of Nuck: A case report. Eur J Pediatr 2006;165:193-4.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Tubbs RS, Loukas M, Shoja MM, Salter EG, Oakes WJ. Indirect inguinal hernia of the urinary bladder through a persistent canal of nuck: Case report. Hernia 2007;11:287-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Chi YM, Lee GM, Yi JB, Yoon KL, Shin KS, Bae CW, et al. Two cases of female hydrocele of the canal of nuck. Korean J Pediatr 2012;55:143-6.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Halstead AE, Clark CP. IX. Hydrocele in the Female. Ann Surg 1905;41:740-4.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Poenaru D, Jacobs DA, Kamal I. Unusual findings in the inguinal canal: A report of four cases. Pediatr Surg Int 1999;15:515-6.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Jedrzejewski G, Stankiewicz A, Wieczorek AP. Uterus and ovary hernia of the canal of Nuck. Pediatr Radiol 2008;38:1257-8.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Shirvani AR, Ortenberg J. Communicating hematocele in children following splenic rupture: Diagnosis and management. Urology 2000;55:590.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Skoog SJ, Conlin MJ. Pediatric hernias and hydroceles. The urologist's perspective. Urol Clin North Am 1995;22:119-30.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Weber T, Tracy T. Groin hernias and hydroceles. In: Pediatric Surgery. 2 nd ed. Philadelphia: WB Saunders Co; 1993. p. 562.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Wiener ES, Touloukian RJ, Rodgers BM, Grosfeld JL, Smith EI, Ziegler MM, et al. Hernia survey of the Section on Surgery of the American Academy of Pediatrics. J Pediatr Surg 1996;31:1166-9.  Back to cited text no. 16

Correspondence Address:
Ashish Verma
Assistant Professor, Department of Radiodiagnosis and Imaging, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi - 221 005
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0971-3026.134408

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