Undescended Testicle - Treatment Overview
If your newborn has an
undescended testicle, your doctor will probably want
to wait and see whether the testicle will descend into the scrotum on its own.
Your doctor will examine your baby at each
well-baby checkup to see whether the testicle has
moved toward or into the scrotum.
If the testicle has not
descended within the first 6 months, it is not likely to do so on its own. Your
doctor will probably recommend surgery to move it into the scrotum, most likely
when the baby is 9 to 15 months old.1 In some cases,
surgery can be done using
laparoscopy, which requires only a small cut below the
belly button. In others, open surgery is needed.
Surgery to move
an undescended testicle into the scrotum is called
orchiopexy or orchidopexy. It is considered a safe and
effective procedure that has few risks.
- Depending on the location of the testicle, one
or two small incisions are made in the scrotum, the groin, or the belly to
allow the surgeon to reach the testicle and move it to the scrotum.
- Usually only one surgery is needed. But if testicles are located
in the belly, your baby may need two separate operations, several months
- If an
inguinal hernia is also present, it will be repaired
at the same time.
- Your baby will be given
general anesthesia so that he sleeps through the
procedure. After surgery, he will be watched for a while after he wakes up, and
then he can go home. Most babies recover quickly.
Another possible treatment is
hormone therapy. Hormone therapy may stimulate the
testicle to complete its descent into the scrotum. If it works, surgery is not
- Hormone therapy alone is effective in less than
20% of cases.4 It may be a good option if the testicle
is already very close to the scrotum.
- Sometimes a testicle may only
partially descend with hormone treatment. This may still be helpful, because it
may make the surgery easier to do.
The treatment your doctor recommends will depend on a
number of factors:
- For babies, most doctors recommend treatment as
early as 6 months of age but no later than 2 years of age. Early treatment
between age 6 months and 1 year may help prevent
infertility later in life.
- For a teen or
adult who has an undescended testicle, surgery is generally recommended after
puberty and up to about age 32. It makes it easier to
check the testicle for cancer. The risk of testicular cancer gets less and less
after age 34. So if you are an adult and you are thinking about treatment for
your undescended testicle, talk with your doctor about the pros and cons of
What to think about
- A child who has only one testicle (because
one is either absent or has been removed) should take special care to preserve
it and protect it from injury. If surgery is required to move the single
testicle to the scrotum, the testicle may be stitched in place. This can help
reduce the risk of damage if
testicular torsion develops later in
- Males who are born with an undescended testicle have about a
20 to 40 times greater risk than other males for developing
testicular cancer.3 Treatment
of an undescended testicle makes it easier for you or your doctor to find
testicular cancer if it develops. Some experts say that early treatment for
undescended testicle may lower testicular cancer risk.5, 6 But there has not been enough
research to prove that this is true. For more information on this type of
cancer, see the topic
- Because of the risk of cancer, men who have ever had an
undescended testicle should have regular medical checkups (at least once every
2 years) throughout life. These checkups should include a
testicular exam. If you have ever had an undescended
testicle, talk to your doctor about how often you need to be checked. Also,
learn how to do self-exams.
- An empty or partly empty scrotum can
have a psychological and emotional effect on a male. Surgical treatment may
improve his self-esteem. If the testicle is absent or malformed, a
testicular prosthesis can help the scrotum appear and