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 What Is an Undescended Testicle?

During the development of a fetus, the testicles (male sex organs) form near the kidneys. As the fetus grows, the testicles descend (move down) into the scrotum. Normally, they’re in the scrotum before the baby is born. An undescended testicle doesn’t fully descend into the scrotum.

Common Sites of an Undescended Testicle

Image of undescended testicle between groin and scrotumImage of undescended testicle above groin

 

Locating an Undescended Testicle

The undescended testicle can usually be felt during a physical exam. Your baby lies on his back for the exam. An older child may be asked to squat. The doctor places his or her fingers on the child’s groin and then gently moves them toward the scrotum until the testicle is felt. If the testicle can’t be found with an exam, imaging studies, such as ultrasound, or other special tests may be needed.

Watchful Waiting

The doctor will most likely wait for a few months to see if your son’s testicle will descend on its own. The closer the testicle is to the scrotum, the greater the chance it will come down. If the testicle does not descend on its own, it can still be treated. If both testicles have not descended, or if the testicle is above the groin, the doctor may advise treatment.

Surgery for an Undescended Testicle - Orchiopexy

If the testicle doesn’t descend on its own, it should be treated to prevent future problems. Surgery is done to bring an undescended testicle into the normal position within the scrotum.

Cutaway view of undescended testicle

Why Treatment Is Needed

  • The longer a testicle remains outside the scrotum, the more likely it is that it will produce fewer sperm.

  • An undescended testicle has a higher risk of cancer. This is true even after the testicle is brought down into the scrotum. Bringing the testicle down makes a problem easier to find.

  • An undescended testicle can leave a small tear (hernia) in the wall between the abdomen and the groin. The hernia needs to be treated to prevent future problems.

Surgery

The testicle is brought down into the scrotum during surgery.

  • You and your son are asked to arrive at the hospital or surgery center 1–2 hours before surgery.

  • Anesthesia is given to keep your son comfortable.

  • An opening (incision) is made in the groin or abdomen. Another small incision is made in the scrotum.

  • The testicle is detached from the tissue around it. Then it is brought down and stitched to the wall of the scrotum.

Risks

Possible complications from orchiopexy include:

  • Infection.

  • Bleeding or blood clots in the scrotum.

  • Damage to the vas deferns and the blood supply to the testicle. Without an adequate blood supply, the testicle may shrink (atrophy).

  • The testicle(s) moving out of the scrotum again (reascend) after surgery and requiring further treatment. This rarely happens.

Call Your Doctor If:

  • The incision bleeds or becomes red, or there is a discharge from the incision.

  • A fever over 100.4°F

  • The child cries all the time.

After Surgery

Your son will most likely go home a few hours after surgery. He should be feeling better in 2–3 days.

  • The doctor may prescribe medication to relieve any pain your child has. Be sure to use it as directed.

  • The stitches will dissolve or be removed 7–10 days after surgery.

  • For at least 2 weeks after surgery, boys should avoid games, sports, rough play, bike riding, and other activities where there is a risk of an injury to the genitals.

  • The doctor will perform a follow-up exam usually within 2 to 3 months after the operation.

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