57. Scrotal Reconstruction and Testicular Prosthetics
KeywordsPenoscrotal webFournier’s gangreneLymphedemaHidradenitis suppurativaScrotoplastyScrotal reconstructionSkin graftingSkin flapsTesticular prosthesis
57.1 Scrotoplasty for Penoscrotal Web (PSW)
Increased attention has been paid to adult PSW within the literature due to its role in erectile dysfunction and prosthetic surgery. One of the most common complaints following penile implantation is penile shortening after device implantation, despite preoperative counseling on penile stretch length correlating with post-implant erection length [3, 4]. As a result, urologists have investigated methods to increase perceived penile length via ventral phalloplasty and scrotoplasty [5, 6].
Accordingly, there are a variety of techniques to correct PSW. Most simplistically, PSW can be corrected by making a horizontal incision across the scrotum and closing it longitudinally . Patients undergoing penile prosthesis implantation who also have PSW can safely undergo concomitant PSW correction . Carrion et al. described one such repair, using opposing curved “checkmarks” to excise redundant scrotum near the penoscrotal junction—the curved incision helps to decrease the amount of redundant tissue during closure . The investigators reported high patient satisfaction after simultaneous penile prosthesis and PSW correction, with a majority (84%) reporting increased perceived penile length . We caution any urologist who attempts such simultaneous repair to not be over-zealous with the degree of scrotoplasty as any tension on the wound increases chance of wound breakdown and compromise of the implanted device.
A more complicated scrotoplasty involves single- or double-Z plasty, which can increase the longitudinal length of skin and make penile length appear longer. In this technique, the main limb of the Z-plasty is centered on the median raphe and all arms off of this should be made at the same angle and at the same length . A criticism of the Z-plasty technique is that it has the potential for increased wound breakdown as the arms of the “Z” carry significant tension which can potentially decrease blood supply.
Another complex scrotoplasty is the V-Y advancement flap . Unlike the Z-plasty, there is less tension in the V-Y advancement, which better maintains the blood supply. The V-Y advancement involves making a V-shaped incision whose apex is at the penoscrotal junction. This is then mobilized and the apex of the “V” is partially closed so that a Y-shape is formed by the suture line . We perform a variation of the V-Y scrotoplasty called the V-Y flap scrotoplasty in which a V-shaped incision is made with the apex towards the urethral meatus (Fig. 57.1). The V is then mobilized caudally, with redundant tissue excised, and then closed longitudinally in three layers—two running layers in Dartos with 3–0 Monocryl (Ethicon, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, USA) suture and one layer in the skin with interrupted 3–0 Chromic catgut (Ethicon, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, USA) suture with great care taken to have a tension-free skin closure. The interrupted catgut skin closure leads to less wound breakdown as the tension in the skin closure is spread across multiple sutures.
57.2 Scrotal Debridement: Etiologies
Scrotal debridement is necessary for a wide range of conditions including: trauma (thermal, penetrating, and blunt), infectious (Fournier’s gangrene), cancer, hidradenitis suppurativa, and others. Regardless of cause, reconstruction of the scrotum can be quite complex, particularly if a good cosmetic outcome is desired.
Genitourinary trauma is found in up to 10% of all patients with other trauma, with testicular/scrotal trauma encompassing 27.8–68.1% of those cases [12, 13]. Trauma can range from blunt to penetrating, as well as the less commonly seen bites and burns. The vast majority of scrotal trauma, reported up to 85%, is blunt, with the remaining 15% represented by penetrating trauma: 55% by gunshot wounds, 42% by stab wound, and 3% by bite wounds . Burns are far less frequent as the male genitals are mobile and commonly protected anteriorly and posteriorly by overlying clothing and laterally by the thighs. When looking at patients who present to burn centers, only 2.8–13% have genital burns caused by flames (24–77%), hot liquids (15–64%), and chemicals (8–16%) [15, 16].
Fournier’s gangrene is a necrotizing infection of the genitals and perineum, with a reported incidence of 1.6/100,000 males . It is ten times more common in men than women . Pathophysiologically, the bacteria causing the infection (commonly polymicrobial) release toxins which break-down soft tissues and cause arterial thrombi which further leads to tissue breakdown by causing localized tissue hypoxia/ischemia [19, 20]. The infection rapidly spreads and the typical patient is immunocompromised via conditions such as HIV, diabetes mellitus, alcoholism, chronic steroid/immunosuppressant use, chemotherapy recipients, alcoholism, and blood dyscrasias [19–21]. Diagnosis is clinical and based on history and physical exam, with the classical physical exam finding of crepitus, found in 64% of patients, indicating presence of subcutaneous gas formed by the bacteria . Diagnosis can be augmented with lab-work, scrotal/perineal ultrasound, and CT of the pelvis – but should not delay definitive management when clinical suspicion of the diagnosis is high.
Hidradenitis suppuritiva is a disease of chronic inflammation in apocrine glands of the axilla, groin, and gluteal clefts, and can be quite painful (Fig. 57.4). It commonly starts as small focal areas of erythema and nodularity and can eventually coalesce into large abscesses with sinus tracts, lymphedema, and fibrosis. Due to the embarrassing nature of the disease, patients often forego evaluation and treatment, and incidence is only reported to be in 1–4% . When found in the groin/perineum, which occurs in 24% of cases, the urologist is commonly involved in the care of the patient, and even after resection, recurrence has been reported as high as 75% . Risk factors include obesity, family history of hidradenitis suppurtiva, and tobacco use .
57.3 Scrotal Debridement: Treatment
When treating these conditions, sufficient scrotal skin must be debrided with the etiology dictating whether the reconstruction be immediate or delayed. In Fournier’s gangrene , which has a 20–40% mortality rate in historical studies, the debridement must be early and aggressive . Prior to resection, hemodynamic monitoring, intravenous fluids, and broad-spectrum antibiotics must be initiated, ensuring that gram positive, gram negative, aerobic, and anaerobic bacteria are covered. At our institution, we use a triple combination of gentamicin , clindamycin or metronidazole , and a third generation cephalosporin such as ceftazidime or ceftriaxone ; infrequently we will add antifungal coverage. After initiation of the above, the patient undergoes surgical debridement of non-viable tissues, with the presence of bleeding as the determinant of adequate resection. We recommend at least one “second look” surgery, though frequently patients require multiple debridements with trips to the operating room so that patient can be thoroughly examined under anesthesia . A multidisciplinary team may be required with general surgery should the debridement extend onto the patient’s abdomen or necessitate a loop colostomy should the debridement extend posterior enough to warrant one so that the wound bed is not exposed to feces. Orchiectomy during these resections is very rare due to the robust blood supply to the testicles [30, 31]. Should the resection of scrotal tissues be so extreme that there is insufficient space for the testicles, thigh pouches can be created on the anteromedial thigh at different levels to prevent rubbing during movement of the lower extremities. However, we feel that the use of thigh pouches is more a historic maneuver that is not necessary as it can be uncomfortable to the patient during ambulation. We instead elect to keep the testicles wrapped with saline gauze or VAC dressing as part of the remaining wound bed during the immediate post-operative period.
After excision and debridement, local wound care is extremely important regardless of modality used, whether it be wet-to-dry dressings that are changed two to three times daily or negative-pressure dressings with vacuum-assisted closure (VAC) devices changed every 2–3 days. At our institution we use wet-to-dry dressings until all planned debridements are completed. Depending on patient comfort and the extent of resection, patients may require repeated exams under anesthesia for proper wound inspection and VAC changes. We recommend continuous negative pressure dressings at 125 mmHg, which can prove difficult to maintain due to the contour and crevices of the genitals which complicate maintaining a vacuum seal. We liberally utilize wall suction if the vacuum pump is unable to maintain the seal (as could be the case due to the aforementioned crevices). Some have even advocated making a basket out of the sponge to better cover the scrotum . Borgquist et al. examined the effects of negative pressure on fluid evacuation and wound contraction, and found that although 75 mmHg has superior wound contraction, 125 mmHg offers maximal fluid evacuation . Others have demonstrated no difference on wound healing between 75 and 125 mmHg . VAC therapy is advantageous over simple wet-to-dry dressings due to a faster rate of granulation formation, fewer dressing changes, lower microbial burden, and overall accelerate wound healing [35–38].
Unlike Fournier’s gangrene patients where the focus of treatment is entirely on the groin/genitals, blunt and penetrating traumatic injuries to the genitourinary system are commonly found on secondary or tertiary survey after the patient has been stabilized and otherwise worked up via ATLS protocol. Once identified, scrotal wounds should be irrigated with normal saline, any debris removed, and the patient should receive antimicrobial and tetanus prophylaxis, if indicated, and not already given as part of the trauma workup. AUA Urotrauma guidelines indicate that any burn, penetrating trauma, or infection of the scrotum go to the operating room for exploration and debridement . Clearly, if there is a Dartos violation there should be a higher suspicion of missed testicular injury, which, if not addressed promptly, can lead to hematoma formation, orchalgia, or even atrophy/reabsorption of the testicle. We recommend scrotal ultrasound for blunt trauma to rule-out any testicular injury and operative exploration for any penetrating injury to the scrotum that violates the Dartos layer. Sonographically, the blunt injured testicle will be heterogeneous and have a loss of contour ordinarily seen in healthy testicles .
Management of burns to the perineum should be managed as burns elsewhere on the body, with removal of contaminated clothing, cooling of the affected areas to prevent spread of the burn, and local wound care. Like Fournier’s gangrene management, any tissue deemed non-viable should be debrided until bleeding tissue is apparent. However, some studies have shown that expectant management of genital burns without wide debridement can be successful in 61–90% of patients . Urinary and fecal diversion to prevent wound infection or promote wound healing is controversial and not necessary in many instances . Peck et al. examined nearly 2000 patients presenting to a regional burn center, and none required indwelling urinary catheter outside of the initial resuscitation period . At our institution, we only use urinary/fecal diversion in cases of aggressive, refractory Fournier’s gangrene that require extensive and multiple debridements.
After resection of the scrotum is complete and there are no further plans for resection depending on the etiology, the closure of the scrotum must be assessed whether it is via primary closure or via skin grafts/flaps. In our experience, we have found that as long as the tissue is healthy and not involved with the resected pathology that only 40–50% of the scrotum is necessary for primary closure. This has been supported in the literature, in which Alikov et al. retrospectively looked at 333 patients undergoing scrotal reconstruction for Fournier’s gangrene and found that only 50% of the scrotum was needed to prevent the use of STSG . We recommend using two to three layers of closure below the dermis with absorbable suture before closing the skin. Use of a closed suction drain for 3 or more days is also recommended, particularly in cases where there is less viable scrotum to accommodate any postsurgical fluid collection.
57.4 Scrotal Debridement: Reconstruction via Skin Grafts
When debridement encompasses >60% of the total scrotal tissue, the scrotum needs to be reconstructed, which can be accomplished via several techniques: split-thickness skin grafts (STSG) , full-thickness skin grafts (FTSG) , or myocutaneous/fasciocutaneous flaps [49–53]. Reports of using synthetic grafts in combination with STSG have been demonstrated with good effect . Regardless of the reconstructive option chosen, the long term outcomes appear to be similarly high between all approaches, with risks and benefits of any given approach guiding surgeon choice . When considering reconstruction, the time, technique, effect on sexual function, and after-care must be contemplated. Reconstruction, at least in cases of infectious or necrotic debridements, should always be delayed until there are no further debridements planned. When debridement occurs for cases of hidradenitis or lymphedema, concomitant STSG can be performed at the time of the index operation.
There has been some debate as to whether or not skin grafts or flaps provide superior temperatures for spermatogenesis, and to date there have been no well-powered studies in humans investigating which technique provides superior spermatogenesis. A study by Demir et al. that compared grafts vs flaps in rats demonstrated that the flap group had similar Johnsen scores for spermatogenesis as controls whereas the skin graft group had lower scores . Contradictory to this, Wang et al. found that flaps had lower spermatogenesis compared to baseline function . More research is needed to directly compare fertility rates between the reconstruction techniques before a final verdict can be reached.
Choosing the technique to best reconstruct a patient depends on wound-type, patient fertility goals, health of surrounding tissues, and surgeon comfort. We tend to use STSG for scrotal reconstruction at our institution as it has been tried and proven in a variety of conditions and is technically simplistic [25, 58, 59]. STSG , compared to flaps, offers a more natural appearance to the native scrotum especially when the graft is meshed, theoretically provides more appropriate temperatures for spermatogenesis, can be performed in a single stage, and results in minimal post-operative morbidity .
We tend to use the thigh as the primary donor site for STSG at the time of scrotal/penile reconstruction. In cases where the patient might require a larger area of reconstruction (such as buried penis, lymphedema, or extensive Fournier’s gangrene debridement), the abdominal wall is another harvest site often utilized after the thigh donor has been exhausted. A pneumatic dermatome with 0.018 inch thickness is used to harvest the tissue at a 45° angle to ensure even depth. The graft is then meshed to give a ratio of 1.5:1, which not only aids in scrotal cosmesis long term, but also allows for smaller grafts to cover a larger surface area (Figs. 57.2, 57.3, and 57.4). For penile reconstruction, we do not recommend meshing as it has poorer cosmetic outcomes for the penile shaft and glans . Whenever the dermatome is employed, mineral oil or other sterile lubricants should be used to prevent undue trauma to the graft and harvest site tissues. Prior to the application of any graft tissue, the testes should be appositioned using absorbable suture in the midline . At our institution we use Vicryl for this purpose (Ethicon, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, USA). Suturing the testicles together prevents torsion and aids in cosmesis by helping develop a plane between the two halves of the new scrotum (Fig. 57.3).
We apply Artiss fibrin sealant (Baxter Healthcare, Inc., Deerfield, IL, USA) that is a long-acting agent, prior to application of the skin graft. The use of fibrin sealant aids in the setting of the graft and its adhesion to the testes [62–64]. Once in place, the edges of the graft should be stapled or sutured into place with fast-absorbable suture; we recommend interrupted 3–0 or 4–0 Chromic sutures along the graft edges (Ethicon, Inc., Piscataway, NJ, USA). Historically, petroleum-based gauze dressings were used to bolster the grafts after application/fixation; however, we prefer to use negative pressure VAC dressings for roughly 3 days postoperatively. Several studies have supported the use of VAC dressings in skin grafting as they improve graft-take rate and accelerate healing compared to traditional dressings [65, 66]. Regardless of dressing choice, the patient should be on strict bedrest to prevent disruption of the graft during this very fragile time in the healing process. For donor sites, we recommend coating the wound beds with antibiotic ointment or mineral oil and covering them with Tegaderm dressings (3M, Maplewood, MN, USA) for as long as the dressing stays in place ideally several days to a week or more, but very commonly the dressing falls off after a few days. Large harvest sites have a tendency to ooze and more rapidly displace the Tegaderm dressing, and in these instances, we place a closed suction drain under the Tegaderm to wick away superfluous fluid. Once the initial harvest site dressings fall off or need to be changed for sanitary reasons, we apply antibiotic ointment or Xeroform gauze (Medtronic, Minneapolis, MN, USA) religiously to the donor site.
Even if all of the proper precautions are taken with superb post-operative wound care, complications can happen. The most common complication following skin grafting is wound breakdown, which most commonly is observed at the graft edges. Typically, we manage wound issues with topical agents, more diligent local wound care, and frequent office visits for wound checks. Through tedious attention to patient wounds following grafting, it is uncommon for patients to require return to the operating room.
Though not regularly performed at our institution, other reconstructive urologists advocate the use of flaps instead of skin grafts for large area defects of the genitalia. Flaps have been successfully used from the remaining local scrotal tissue (local advancement flaps) , rectus abdominus muscle , medial thigh [51, 52, 68], and lateral thigh . Flaps maintain the original neurovascular supply and thus sensation can be preserved in the flapped tissue. However, critics of flap reconstruction will point out that the operations take longer than STSG and that there are higher rates of wound infection . Additionally flaps alone might not be able to cover a large-area defect of the genitalia and skin grafting might be called for regardless. As discussed earlier in this chapter, there are conflicting reports regarding which technique offers superior spermatogenesis and at this time there is no definitive study proving one method to be superior for preserving spermatogenesis [56, 57]. Both STSG and flaps have been shown to have good aesthetic outcomes .
57.5 Testicular Prosthetics
Male patients who lack testicles, either congenitally or as a result of trauma or surgery, have been known to report psychological distress regardless of age . In these cases, a testicular prosthesis can be used to preserve the image of the male sexual body. Prostheses can also be used in cases of testicular atrophy and gender reassignment.
In the United States, there is only one FDA-approved device for testicular prosthesis, the Coloplast Torosa (Coloplast, Minneapolis, MN, USA). It is a silicone-coated saline filled device that was proven to be safe in a 5-year prospective trial at 18 different institutions . Although other prosthetic devices are utilized throughout Europe and Asia, these have not been approved in the United States due to their silicone composition . The Torosa comes in four sizes (extra small, small, medium, and large) corresponding to the fill-volume of the prosthesis. Note that when filling these devices, the injection port, located opposite the suture tab, can only be pierced five times. Studies have shown that the prosthesis can be implanted at the time of the index surgery without any increase in complication rate, as evidenced by Robinson et al. whom looked at 904 men who underwent radical orchiectomy .
Like other prosthetic devices, great care must be given to ensure that the prosthesis is placed aseptically to prevent device and wound infection. Local and superficial wound infections have been reported to be as high as 7.3% as evidenced in a 2002 retrospective cohort study from UCLA . Wound infection can lead to colonization of the prosthetic, and in up to 2.5% of cases, the graft can erode completely through the scrotum . Though there is no one single method to achieve perfect sterility, we recommend pre-scrubbing the scrotum with chlorhexidine or betadine brushes, giving perioperative antibiotics, sterilizing the scrotum again with final skin prep, and irrigating the wound bed with antibiotic solution before and after the prosthesis is inserted. Perioperative antibiotic selection should adequately cover gram-positive, gram-negative, and anaerobic organisms. Many urologists will change gloves prior to handling the prosthesis. Another protocol to reduce wound infection outlined by Bodiwala et al. involves ensuring a negative urine culture preoperatively, having the patient bathe with chlorhexidine scrub before presenting to the operating room, shaving the genitals in the operating room, administering both systemic and local antibiotics, scrubbing the scrotum/incision site for 10 minutes with a betadine or similar scrub, and double gloving .
Many different approaches for testicular implantation have been described, including inguinal, trans-scrotal, and high-scrotal incisions. At our institution, given our adult patient population, we prefer to use a high scrotal incision. This incision affords us the ability to better control placement and suturing of the testicle into the desired position.
Many pediatric urologists tend to use the inguinal approach as it has the lowest risk of scrotal erosion . In this method a semilunar incision is made at the attachment point of the scrotum to the remainder of the pubic skin. A plane is developed in the intrascrotal space for the prosthesis to be implanted. This technique has a lower reported rate of wound infection as the prosthesis does not touch the skin, has a shorter dissection tract than the standard inguinal approach, and the pubic hair easily hides the incision . Other surgeons have adapted the inguinal incision technique by using a vaginal speculum to assist in placement of the prosthesis . Simultaneous placement of testicular prosthesis can be done at the time of orchiectomy for testis cancer or testicular torsion. Bush et al. described placing the prosthesis within the tunica vaginalis at the time of orchiectomy at time of orchiectomy for testicular torsion in a small (n = 12) cohort study . Through this technique, there were no infectious complications at a median 5-month follow up and it has been since recognized as a way to ensure the testicle stays in the correct anatomical position while providing an extra barrier layer for infection.
Many patients are very satisfied with their prosthesis, as shown in self-esteem focused validated questionnaires [78–80], but there are some who experience complications, both physical/technical and in the overall cosmesis of the implant. The most common physical complications are extrusion (3–8%), infection (0.6–4%), chronic pain (1–3%), and hematoma (0.3–3%) [78, 81]. Some patients report being dissatisfied with the size, firmness, and position of the implant as some tend to migrate to a more cephalad position if not properly sutured into place .
Through the course of this chapter, we have described some of the more common scrotal reconstructive surgeries that are performed by urologists, ranging from simple scrotoplasties to complex scrotal reconstructions using skin grafting and prosthetics. We hope that with this chapter, the novice urologic surgeon can garner the appropriate insight into the surgeries along with their pitfalls and complications so that they feel more comfortable when performing the reconstructions.
Key Summary Points
Closed-suction drains for scrotal wounds help prevent hematomas and thus might prevent unnecessary operating room “take-backs.”
Even though the decision to return to the operating theater is a difficult one, should scrotal hematomas develop there should be a low threshold for early re-operation.
Fournier’s gangrene should be managed with serial debridements. Even if the entire wound bed is excised to healthy tissue at the index surgery, we recommend at least one “second look” to ensure there is no further necrotic/infected tissue.
In larger wound beds where a wound VAC is applied, the use of wall suction and frequent reinforcement of the dressing may be necessary to ensure adequate negative pressure is applied.
We have had excellent skin graft take results with the use of fibrin glues. Our experience has noted that fibrin glues tend to aid in graft placement, adherence rates, and it further minimizes the need for excessive quilting sutures to tack the central portions of the graft.
Breakdown of wounds and skin grafts can be managed non-operatively with local wound care and frequent wound checks in the office or at home by visiting nurses.