Wolffian Duct

Definition - What does Wolffian Duct mean?

The Wolffian duct is a tube that develops in early embryonic growth. The presence of testosterone in male embryos causes the duct to develop into major components of the male reproductive system. The lack of testosterone in the female embryo causes the Wollfian duct to recede, while the Mullerian duct composes the female system.

While rare, any complications during the embryonic development of the Wolffian duct have the potential to create anatomical abnormalities in the male reproductive system. If these abnormalities result in the disfiguration or dysfunction of the sex organs, it may disrupt puberty or complicate conception.

The Wolffian duct is also known as the mesonephric duct.

FertilitySmarts explains Wolffian Duct

In male embryos, the Wolffian duct develops into the following sex organs:

  • Epididymis
  • Vas deferens
  • Seminal vesicles
  • Rete testis
  • Efferent ducts

Of the males born with Wolffian duct abnormalities, the majority are asymptomatic and the condition remains undetected. However, .1-1% experience congenital deformations, specifically of the kidneys or urinary tract.

When the Wolffian duct regresses in female embryos, it typically disappears. However, in certain situations a component of the duct may remain, positioned behind the vaginal wall. As a result, a growth called a Gartner’s duct or Gartner’s cyst may develop.

Gartner’s ducts affect approximately 25% of all women, but only 1% of these ducts develop into cysts. The cysts are typically asymptomatic, but may cause pain or discomfort if large enough. In rare cases, the cysts may complicate childbirth. Therefore, it might be required to have it removed prior to delivery.

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