Hematospermia is defined as blood in the semen. While often perceived as a symptom of little significance, blood in the ejaculate can cause great concern to the men who experience it. The condition is common, and many episodes go unnoticed; therefore, the prevalence of hematospermia remains unknown. In most patients with hematospermia, the condition is self-limited and no further diagnostic workup is needed; however, in some patients, hematospermia may be the first indicator of other urologic diseases.
Hematospermia has been written about for centuries. Hippocrates, Galen, Pare, Morgagni, and Fournier all commented on this condition. The first American report appeared in 1894, and Fletcher, Leary, Marshall, and Ganabathi have subsequently published excellent contemporary reviews on the subject.
The advent of newer imaging modalities has altered both the diagnosis and the treatment of hematospermia. Aslam et al have developed an algorithm to guide the management of these patients.
For an understanding of the causes of hematospermia, a working knowledge of the relevant anatomy of the ejaculatory complex is useful.
The seminal vesicles are androgen-dependent accessory organs that produce and store seminal fluid, which is essential to male fertility. The seminal vesicles are best studied ultrasonographically. Normal seminal vesicles are flat paired structures that lie cephalad to the prostate behind the bladder and have a bow-tie appearance on transverse imaging. They are symmetric, well-defined, saccular, elongated organs. In its normal collapsed state, the center of the gland is homogenous, with areas of increased echogenicity corresponding to the folds of secretory epithelium. In the distended state, the wall is visibly composed of 2 distinct layers. Caudally, the seminal vesicles diverge laterally.
The dimensions of the seminal vesicles vary with age, but not with the ejaculatory state. Upon transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS), the dimensions are estimated to be 30 ± 5 mm in length, 15 ± 4 mm in width, and 13.7 ± 3.7 mL in mean volume. The age of the patient and degree of prostate enlargement have been shown to cause variation in the size of the seminal vesicles.
MRI findings may also help delineate the normal anatomy of the seminal vesicles. Using MRI, the signal intensity of the seminal vesicles can be compared with the tissues surrounding them (ie, skeletal muscle, fat, urine). The signal intensity on T1-weighted spin-echo images of normal seminal vesicles in men is similar to or slightly higher than that of skeletal muscles and is always greater than that of urine. On T2-weighted images, the signal intensity varies. In prepubertal boys and men older than 70 years (androgen-deprived males), the signal intensity is generally lower than that of skeletal muscle or urine. Convolutions of the seminal vesicles are best observed on T2-weighted images or on T1-weighted images with the use of intravenous contrast agents.
The vasa deferentia act as conduits, carrying sperm between the epididymis and the ejaculatory ducts via the vasal ampullae. The vasal ampullae pass medially to the seminal vesicles and are best seen using transaxial TRUS views.
The seminal vesicles and vasal ampullae join together to form the ejaculatory duct. The ejaculatory duct travels through the prostate and enters the urethra at the level of the verumontanum. The junction between the seminal vesicle and the ejaculatory duct lies within the prostate and is difficult to see in a healthy unobstructed system. Small echodensities are frequently seen at the junction of the ejaculatory ducts and the verumontanum in the urethra. These areas provide useful landmarks and are thought to represent concretions within the periurethral glands surrounding the verumontanum.
The true prevalence of hematospermia is unknown. It is likely that many cases escape the patient's notice, and remain unrecognized and unreported.
Data collected after TRUS-guided biopsy of the prostate suggest that up to 36.3% of men undergoing 6-15 cores develop postprocedure hematospermia. Increasing the number of cores did not significantly increase the frequency of hematospermia.
Hematospermia affects only males.
Hematospermia can occur in males of any age. In younger men (< 40 y), hematospermia is uniformly benign. Even in older men, it is rarely associated with malignancy.
The physical examination should include measuring the patient's blood pressure because severe hypertension is associated with hematospermia. This association is well recognized; however, the exact mechanism by which it occurs is unclear. It may have a similar basis to the association of hypertension with epistaxis (nosebleeds).
Hematospermia is usually associated with inflammatory conditions of the seminal vesicles or prostate. The condition is often self-limited and resolves within 1-2 months. If hematospermia persists beyond 2 months, further workup is recommended to determine the cause. In approximately half the cases, the etiology is declared idiopathic. However, this may reflect an incomplete evaluation.
Lesions of the prostate account for many cases of hematospermia. The most common etiology is prostate biopsy, which produces self-limited hematospermia that resolves within approximately 1 month. In one case series, prostatitis was cited as the etiology in 30% of the patients.
Other authors have recognized prostate cancer as an etiologic factor. Malignancies account for 2% of cases. In a long-term follow-up study of 150 patients with hematospermia, only six patients eventually developed prostate carcinoma, and none had prostate carcinoma diagnosed at the time of the initial evaluation.
However, a study by Han et al reported a significantly increased risk of prostate cancer among men with hematospermia. Of 139 men with hematospermia, 19 (13.7%) were diagnosed with prostate cancer. In the overall cohort of 26,126 patients, the prostate cancer detection rate was 6.5%. On logistic regression analysis, the presence of hematospermia was a significant predictor of prostate cancer diagnosis.
This is still a controversial area of investigation. Prando reported on a series of 86 men with hemospermia and found prostate cancer in only one patient. In a review by Ng et al of 300 consecutive cases of hematospermia, 13 prostate cancers were detected (5.7%), all in men over 40 years of age with either with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level of >3.0 ng/dL or an abnormal digital rectal examination (DRE). Those researchers recommended screening for prostate cancer in men over 40 who present with hematospermia.
Hematospermia can also be caused by prostatic telangiectasia and varices. In rare cases, a patient with hematospermia may be diagnosed with prostatic varices only after cystoscopic examination while the patient has an erection. In order to diagnose this condition, flexible (preferably) or rigid cystoscopy is conducted after pharmacological induction of an erection.
Prostatitis is often thought to cause hematospermia, although no specific association has been reported. Upon signs and symptoms of acute bacterial prostatitis, specific treatment is indicated. If symptoms of chronic pelvic pain prostatitis syndrome are present, urine culture and then culture of expressed prostatic secretions should be performed. Hematospermia is not a recognized symptom of chronic prostatitis syndrome.
In a study of 52 patients with hematospermia, Etherington et al found a significant number of patients with prostatic calculi.
Another publication reported on cystic dilation of the prostatic utricle in association with hematospermia. Furuya and Kato reported on 30 of 138 men with hematospermia who had a midline cyst of the prostate. Nineteen men underwent transperineal biopsy; hemorrhagic fluid was confirmed in 13 of the men. Four of the men were cured with transurethral unroofing.
With the advent of TRUS-guided prostate biopsy for the diagnosis of prostate cancer, a new etiology of hematospermia has emerged. Many centers have reviewed their experience with this complication.
The rate of hematospermia following transrectal biopsy of the prostate has varied from 9-45%. In one study, 25% of patients who underwent TRUS biopsy had concomitant hematospermia and hematuria after the procedure. Berger et al reported on 5957 biopsies performed in 4303 men. This group found that hematospermia occurred after approximately 36% of the biopsies. They concluded that, in this situation, the hematospermia is generally self-limited and requires no specific therapy.
Transurethral resection of the prostate is also associated with subsequent hematospermia. A study by Shen et al described 80 consecutive men who underwent transurethral prostate resection and found that hematospermia developed in 2.5% of the men.
Some authors have recommended administering finasteride beginning 2 weeks prior to TRUS biopsy of the prostate to reduce the risk of postprocedure hematuria. While no studies have specifically examined the impact of finasteride on the occurrence of hematospermia, this condition may be improved with the use of this medication.
Brachytherapy as treatment for prostate cancer involves inserting radioactive seeds directly into the prostate. This procedure has been shown to cause hematospermia in up to 17% of patients who undergo this treatment.
Urethritis has long been recognized as a cause of hematospermia, especially in younger men.
Other urethral lesions leading to hematospermia include cysts, polyps, condylomata, and strictures. Benign urethral polyps can occur following failure of the invagination process of the prostatic glandular epithelium. In one case series, 20% of patients with urethral polyps had hematospermia as their presenting symptom. In another study, urethritis, condylomata, and stricture disease represented the cause of hematospermia in 7%, 1.5%, and 1.5% of the patients, respectively.
Many authors have cited congenital and acquired seminal vesicle cysts as a cause of hematospermia. Congenital cysts result from an error in embryological development and are associated with ipsilateral renal agenesis and/or ipsilateral congenital absence of the vas deferens.
Acquired seminal vesicle cysts generally result from infectious processes, and malignancies of the seminal vesicles are a rare cause of hematospermia. In one review of 39 patients with primary carcinoma of the seminal vesicle, only 6 patients (16%) had hematospermia.
More recently, amyloidosis of the seminal vesicles has been described to be related to hematospermia. Fifty-six men with hematospermia were evaluated with MRI, and obvious intravesicular hemorrhage was associated with hyperintense signal (brighter) of the seminal vesicles on MRI. After resolution of the bleeding, the signal returned to a hypointense state (lighter) on MRI. Twelve of these patients underwent transperineal biopsy; 4 were found to have seminal vesicle amyloidosis. In all cases, hematospermia resolved with conservative intervention.
The most recent data suggest that seminal vesicle and ejaculatory duct cysts or hemorrhagic lesions account for most identifiable causes of hemospermia. Fifty-two of 86 men in a recent study were found to have lesions in association with hemospermia. Of these men, 51 had some type of seminal vesicle, ejaculatory duct, or prostatic benign or hemorrhagic lesion. Only one case of prostate cancer was identified.
Infections and inflammatory disorders account for 40% of cases. Infectious causes of hematospermia include tuberculosis (TB), HIV infection, and cytomegalovirus infection. Yu and colleagues found that 11% of a cohort of 65 patients with genitourinary TB had hematospermia during their disease.
A review of 16 men with hematospermia who presented to a sexually transmitted infection clinic found pathogens in 12 of the men. These included urine, genitourinary, or serum cultures or titers positive for herpes simplex virus in five, Chlamydia trachomatis in four, Enterococcus faecalis in two, and Ureaplasma urealyticum in one. Culture-specific antibiotics were administered, and hematospermia resolved in all the patients.
Several authors have reported schistosomiasis as a cause of hematospermia. Although these patients often have extensive bladder involvement, Schistosoma hematobium ova are only occasionally found in the ejaculate.
Hydatid disease, a parasitic infection caused by the Echinococcus worm, has also been associated with hematospermia.
Trauma has been cited as a cause of hematospermia in several case reports. Such case reports include hematospermia occurring following hemorrhoidal sclerosing injection, urethral self-instrumentation, and testicular and perineal blunt trauma. Hematospermia following transrectal prostate needle biopsy should also be included in this category. Approximately 2% of cases are believed to result from trauma other than that related to recent prostate biopsy.
Systemic disorders that are associated with hematospermia include hypertension, chronic liver disease, amyloidosis, lymphoma, and bleeding diatheses (eg, von Willebrand disease). In one case-controlled study of patients undergoing hypertension therapy, the prevalence of hematospermia was no higher than in the general population; however, hematospermia resolved in several patients when their hypertension was controlled.
Risk factors for hematospermia in patients who are hypertensive include the following:
Kurkar and colleagues identified hyperuricemia as a possible cause of hematospermia. Compared with their patients who had idiopathic hematospermia, those with hyperuricemia (median serum uric acid level, 9.3 mg/dL) were significantly younger (median of 31.5 vs 45 years) and more likely to complain of painful ejaculation (68.2% vs 9.5%).Hematospermia resolved completely in all patients of the hyperuricemia group in 1-4 months, compared with only 25% of the idiopathic group.
The advent of transrectal ultrasonography (TRUS) has provided physicians with the single most important new tool for evaluating patients with hematospermia and has relegated the role of studies such as intravenous urography, vasography, and seminal vesiculography to that of only historical interest. TRUS and MRI allow clear visualization of the seminal vesicles, prostate, and ampullary portions of the vas. As a result, etiologic factors can now be identified more frequently.
TRUS is not recommended for routine use in patients initially presenting with hematospermia. However, TRUS can be valuable for evaluating older patients or those with persistent hemospermia or associated symptoms.
Three large series have evaluated the utility of TRUS in the investigation of patients with chronic hematospermia. In a study of 52 patients, Etherington et al found a significant number of patients with prostatic calculi and abnormalities of the seminal vesicles, including calculi, dilatation, cysts, abnormal lobulation, and asymmetry.
Worischeck and Parra evaluated 26 patients with hematospermia using TRUS. They found abnormalities in 92% of patients, which included dilatated seminal vesicles (30%), ejaculatory duct cysts (15%), ejaculatory duct calculi (15%), seminal vesicle calculi (15%), and müllerian duct remnants (7%). No ultrasonographic evidence of malignancy was found.
In a study by Raviv et al of 115 consecutive patients with hematospermia who were evaluated with TRUS, all the patients were found to have an abnormality, almost all of them benign. In 10 patients a 12-core TRUS-guided biopsy of the prostate was taken; none of the samples were positive for tumor.
The incidence of seminal vesicle abnormalities in these series is similar to that in earlier studies that used biochemical assays and seminal vesiculography. Unfortunately, none of these studies cited the mean patient age. This factor may have aided clinicians in stratifying patients in different treatment algorithms.
Persistent hematospermia (>3 mo) without an antecedent cause or persistent hematospermia associated with an abnormality on ultrasonography or MRI may prompt further evaluation. Yang et al described a technique in which a 6F or 9F rigid ureteroscope is used to gain access to the prostatic utricle or ejaculatory ducts. In this manner, the scope is used to visually inspect the seminal vesicles, and a biopsy specimen may then be obtained from any abnormal area. In a study of this procedure by Yang et al, seminal vesicle hemorrhage was found in 62% of patients, and calculi were found in 16%.
Patients in whom bleeding prostatic variceal veins are suggested as the cause of hematospermia are candidates for fulguration. After infectious causes have been excluded in cases of persistent hematospermia, cystourethroscopy is performed. If large friable prostatic veins are discovered and examination findings are otherwise normal, fulguration with a Bugbee or loop electrode can be performed. Prior to fulguration, a biopsy should be performed on any suggestive lesions.
More recently, a technique of endoscopy of the ejaculatory ducts and seminal vesicles has been described.[26, 27] This technique involves using a semirigid ureteroscope to cannulate the ejaculatory duct and allows the surgeon to examine the duct, seminal vesicle, and ampulla of the vas. However, the author reserves this technique for only the most refractory cases of hemospermia that cause significant physiologic (urinary retention or persistent hematuria) or psychological (avoidance of ejaculation) trauma.