If your child has cryptorchidism… he has a common problem with his genitals which can be corrected with surgery. Cryptorchidism refers to a developmental condition in which one or both testicles fail to descend into the scrotum. Testicles begin to descend into the scrotum when the unborn child is about seven months old and 95% of newborn males have fully descended testicles at birth. If the testicles have not descended in the first nine months of life, it is unlikely that they will do so.
The condition occurs in about one out of every 200 male births. While the exact cause is unknown, it is thought to be related to a hormone deficiency just before and after birth.
Surgery is recommended… to maximize your child’s chances for fertility, improve his physical appearance, and decrease the chance of injury to the testicle(s). Since there is a slight risk of malignancy associated with the undescended testicle, surgical placement into the scrotum offers the opportunity for thorough examination of the testicle. Surgery should be done early in childhood because of the changes that occur in undescended testicles due to higher body temperature when not in the scrotum. These changes occur at one year of age. Early treatment may decrease the chance of malignancy and increase the chance for fertility.
If possible, an operation should be performed at about one year of age, although surgery can also be successful later in childhood.
The surgical operation for undescended testicles is called an orchidopexy, and can generally be performed as an outpatient procedure. Your child can enter and leave the hospital on the same day.
To be certain of the diagnosis… the testicles should be examined by a physician to see if they can be felt and brought into the scrotum. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between undescended testicles and retractile testicles, which move in and out of the scrotum when the child experiences touch, cold, or a diaper change.
On occasion, hormones may be given to help the testicles descend.
This discussion serves as an introduction to the problem of undescended testicles. I encourage you to discuss with me your questions and concerns about this condition and the procedures used to correct it.
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Richard M. Parker, M.D., F.A.A.P., F.A.C.S.