What is an undescended testicle?
This is when one of your child's testicles does
not complete its normal passage from within the abdomen to the scrotum.
Generally it is one testicle that is affected - on rare occasions, both may be
affected. The testicles develop inside the body and usually drop into the
scrotum just before birth or in the first few months of a boy's life. Both
testicles should have dropped into the scrotum by the time your child is one
year old. In some children, the testicles may be in the scrotum for much of the
time but cannot be felt there because they naturally rise back into the body
through fear or cold temperatures. If this is the case, there is no cause for
concern. However if a testicle is permanently within the abdomen, treatment will
be needed. An undescended testicle rarely, if ever, descends of its own accord.
The medical term for an undescended testicle is cryptorchidism
What causes it?
The two most common causes are either that the
canal through which the testicles descend is blocked, or a band of tissue
attaches the testicle to the abdominal wall which stops it descending.
On rare occasions, the testicle does not descend
due to other problems with the testicles themselves or with the male hormones.
How common is it?
This condition is more common in premature
babies. Overall around one in 20 male babies is born with an undescended
testicle and in about one in 70 cases, the testicle remain undescended. There is
no known cause of the condition.
How is it diagnosed?
Your child's doctor will need to determine
whether the testicles are truly undescended or whether they have slid back into
the body temporarily. You can usually find this out by putting your child in a
warm bath and checking whether you can feel both testicles.
How is it treated?
The condition is usually treated with a small
operation called an orchidopexy. Basically this involves making a small cut
above the penis. The testicle is moved down into the scrotum and the gap closed
again. This will prevent the testicle moving back up into your child's abdomen.
Surgery within the first few years of life gives the testicle the best chance of
Why Does It Have to Be Treated?
Treatment is necessary for several reasons:
- The higher temperature of the body may inhibit
the normal production of sperm in the undescended testicle.
- The undescended testicle is more susceptible
to forming a tumor.
- The undescended testicle is more vulnerable to
- An asymmetrical or empty scrotum may cause
worry and embarrassment.
Are there any risks with this operation?
Every anesthetic carries a risk of complications,
but this is very small. Your child's anesthetist is an experienced doctor who is
trained to deal with any complications. All surgery carries a small risk of
infection or bleeding. After the operation there will be some tenderness in the
groin area. Occasionally there may also be some bruising. There is also a slight
risk that the testicle may be damaged during surgery.
What happens after the operation?
Your child may suffer some discomfort around the
groin area. You can give him some liquid acetaminophen or ibuprofen on the
advice of your child's doctor.
While the area is sore, your child should wear
loose clothing. He should not be too active for about two weeks until the
scrotum is less painful and any swelling has reduced. For one month after the
operation, your child should not ride a bicycle or a similar toy. The stitches
used during the surgery will dissolve on their own so there is no need to take
your child to the doctor to have them removed. Your child's surgeon will ask to
see him as an outpatient four to six weeks after the operation to assess the