Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Seminal Vesicle


Article Author:
Alastair McKay


Article Editor:
Sandeep Sharma


Editors In Chief:
Linda Lindsay


Managing Editors:
Avais Raja
Orawan Chaigasame
Carrie Smith
Abdul Waheed
Khalid Alsayouri
Frank Smeeks
Kristina Soman-Faulkner
Trevor Nezwek
Radia Jamil
Patrick Le
Sobhan Daneshfar
Anoosh Zafar Gondal
Saad Nazir
William Gossman
Pritesh Sheth
Hassam Zulfiqar
Navid Mahabadi
Steve Bhimji
John Shell
Matthew Varacallo
Heba Mahdy
Ahmad Malik
Mark Pellegrini
James Hughes
Beata Beatty
Nazia Sadiq
Hajira Basit
Phillip Hynes
Tehmina Warsi


Updated:
3/2/2019 4:50:05 PM

Introduction

The seminal vesicles are paired glands which produce and act as reservoirs for seminal fluid. They form part of the accessory male sex glands which also include the prostate gland and the bulbourethral glands.[1][2][3]

The seminal vesicles are located in the pelvis superior to the rectum, inferior to the fundus of the bladder and posterior to the prostate. Like the prostate, they are separated from the rectum by Denonvillier's fascia. They lie lateral to the ampulla of the vas deferens, and posteriorly each vesicle diverges from each other. Anteriorly, each ampulla of the vas and corresponding seminal vesicle join into a constriction known as the ejaculatory duct. These 2 ejaculatory ducts open into the prostatic urethra at the verumontanum, either side of the utricle.

Each seminal vesicle consists of a single, coiled, blind-ending tube giving off several irregular pouches. It is normally around 3 to 5 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter. However, when uncoiled they are roughly 10 cm in length. Histologically, the seminal vesicles are composed of 3 layers. These include an inner mucosal layer, consisting of pseudostratified columnar epithelium with goblet cells and a lamina propria; a muscular layer, with an inner circular and outer longitudinal smooth muscle arrangement; and finally, an outer adventitial layer composed of loose areolar tissue.

Structure and Function

The seminal vesicles contribute around 70% of the fluid that will eventually become semen. The fluid that they secrete has a number of properties and components that are important for semen function and sperm survival. First, the fluid that the seminal vesicles produce is slightly alkaline in nature. This increases the pH of the semen as a whole and counteracts the acidic environment found within the vagina. The fluid contains fructose which provides an energy source for spermatozoa. Other components such as proteins, enzymes, vitamin C, and prostaglandins are also present. Semenogelin is an important seminal vesical protein which results in the formation of a gel-like matrix that encases ejaculated spermatozoa, preventing immediate capacitation. The subsequent action of proteolytic substances such as prostate-specific antigen liquefies this matrix liberating spermatozoon.[4][5]

The seminal vesicles are secretomotor organs composed of both secretory glandular tissue under parasympathetic control and smooth muscle under both sympathetic and parasympathetic influence. The emission phase of ejaculation, mediated through sympathetic fibers from the hypogastric nerves, leads to contractions of the seminal vesicles along with the prostate resulting in the expulsion of spermatozoa and seminal fluid into the posterior urethra.

Embryology

Seminal vesicle development is closely linked to the embryological development of other mesonephric or Wolffian duct structures, namely the epididymis and vas deferens. The male gonad, the testis, initially develops under the influence of the Y-chromosome. Testis development drives gonad-derived fetal testosterone production. During the 10th week of fetal development, the seminal vesicles sprout from the distal mesonephric ducts in response to testosterone. This morphogenesis of the seminal vesicles results from an androgen-dependent interaction between embryonic mesenchyme and epithelial tissues. This contrasts with the development of the other accessory male sex glands, the prostate, and bulbourethral glands. These structures develop from the urogenital sinus under the influence of dihydrotestosterone.

Blood Supply and Lymphatics

The arteries supplying the seminal vesicles come from the middle and inferior vesical and middle rectal vessels. Venous drainage is via the vesical venous plexus into the internal iliac veins. Lymphatic drainage follows venous drainage and drains to the internal and into external iliac lymph nodes.

Nerves

Innervation of the seminal vesicles comes from the hypogastric nerves and the inferior hypogastric plexus.

Physiologic Variants

Unilateral or bilateral agenesis of the seminal vesicles is rare. Unilateral agenesis or cyst formation is often associated with abnormalities from other ipsilateral, mesonephric-derived structures, such as renal agenesis. Bilateral agenesis is commonly associated with bilateral agenesis of the vas deferens and is often related to the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator CFTR gene mutation on chromosome 7p. This can result in obstructive azoospermia.

Surgical Considerations

Surgery for isolated seminal vesicle disease is rare but can be offered in cases of cysts, stones, neoplasms or chronic infection. Increasingly, such surgery is offered via minimally invasive techniques such as endoscopic, laparoscopic or robotic approaches.[6][7][8]

Radical prostatectomy typically includes excision of the seminal vesicles, "en bloc," along with the prostate. However, their proximity to the inferior hypogastric plexus has led some to consider the preservation of the seminal vesicles in a bid to improve recovery of urinary and sexual function post-operatively. Evidence so far suggests, although oncologically safe, there is no difference in recovery of function compared to more standard methods of nerve-sparing technique.

Major sympathetic efferent fibers to the seminal vesicle and vas deferens originate from hypogastric nerve which forms the lower end of the sympathetic chain. This region is at risk during major retroperitoneal surgery, such as retroperitoneal lymph node dissection, and damage can fail emission or anejaculation.

Clinical Significance

Infrequently, a range of benign and malignant conditions can affect the seminal vesicles such as stones, cysts, infection, abscess, and tumors. Infectious manifestations are more common in countries where tuberculosis and schistosomiasis are endemic. Physical examination of the seminal vesicles can be difficult, but occasionally, seminal vesicle pathology can be palpated during the digital rectal examination. Urinalysis may reveal non-visible haematuria or the presence of leukocytes. Measuring fructose levels from a semen sample can provide a direct measure of seminal vesicle function. If fructose is absent, then bilateral agenesis or obstruction should be suspected.

Imaging of the seminal vesicles can be achieved through a number of modalities. Trans-rectal ultrasound (TRUS) is commonly the initial investigation of choice allowing for both diagnostic and therapeutic interventions. CT and MRI also allow imaging of the seminal vesicles and their bordering pelvic organs.

The proximity of the seminal vesicles to the prostate gland makes it an important adjacent structure in the staging and subsequent management of prostate cancer. The vast majority of malignant involvement of the seminal vesicles represents invasion from primary prostate cancer (pT3b).

Rarely, primary carcinoma of the seminal vesicle can present, but its histological diagnosis can be challenging to make. Most commonly this takes the form of adenocarcinoma. However, rarer tumors such as lymphoma, sarcoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and neuroendocrine carcinoma are also possible.[9][2][10]


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Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Seminal Vesicle - Questions

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Which of the following normally do not contain spermatozoa?



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Which structure separates the seminal vesicles from the rectum?



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Which of the following is not a component or property of seminal vesicle fluid?



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Which congenital abnormality affecting the seminal vesicles is commonly associated with the gene mutation found in cystic fibrosis?



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In males, which structure is not embryologically derived from the Wolffian (mesonephric) duct?



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Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Seminal Vesicle - References

References

Kahai P,Bhimji SS, Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Large Intestine null. 2018 Jan     [PubMed]
Zhang JL,Yuan K,Wang MQ,Yan JY,Wang Y,Zhang GD, Seminal vesicle abnormalities following prostatic artery embolization for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia. BMC urology. 2018 Oct 24     [PubMed]
Mikuz G, Ectopias of the kidney, urinary tract organs, and male genitalia. Der Pathologe. 2018 Nov 16     [PubMed]
Wang DC,Wang JQ, [Neurophysiological effects of seminal vesicles]. Zhonghua nan ke xue = National journal of andrology. 2018 Apr     [PubMed]
Druart X,de Graaf S, Seminal plasma proteomes and sperm fertility. Animal reproduction science. 2018 Jul     [PubMed]
Egevad L,Judge M,Delahunt B,Humphrey PA,Kristiansen G,Oxley J,Rasiah K,Takahashi H,Trpkov K,Varma M,Wheeler TM,Zhou M,Srigley JR,Kench JG, Dataset for the reporting of prostate carcinoma in core needle biopsy and transurethral resection and enucleation specimens: recommendations from the International Collaboration on Cancer Reporting (ICCR). Pathology. 2018 Nov 23     [PubMed]
Burkhardt O,Neuenschwander JE,John H,Randazzo M, Does seminal vesicle-sparing robotic radical prostatectomy influence postoperative prostate-specific antigen measured with an ultrasensitive immunoassay? Swiss medical weekly. 2018 Nov 19     [PubMed]
Steinberg RL,Johnson BA,Cadeddu JA, Magnetic-assisted robotic surgery: initial case series of reduced-port robotic prostatectomy. Journal of robotic surgery. 2018 Nov 7     [PubMed]
Shen Y,Nie L,Yao Y,Yuan L,Liu Z,Lv Y, Seminal vesicle metastasis after liver transplantation for hepatocellular carcinoma: A case report. Medicine. 2019 Jan;     [PubMed]
Yin T,Jiang Y, A 5-year follow-up of primary seminal vesicle adenocarcinoma: A case report. Medicine. 2018 Oct;     [PubMed]

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