Weighing In on Newborn Circumcision
WebMD News Archive
The only infectious complication recorded was an infection of the skin and
the tissue just beneath the skin, known as cellulitis, which occurred in two
circumcised as well as two uncircumcised infants and was therefore not
considered to be related to the procedure. Although there have been some
reports of the "flesh-eating disease," necrotizing fascitiis, occurring
in circumcised babies, the study did not find any cases of it.
According to a pediatrician on staff at Rush Presbyterian-St. Luke's
Hospital in Chicago, the complications reported in the study are "extremely
rare in good, reliable hands" and the complication rate "might be an
overstatement." Bill Barrows, MD, who reviewed the study for WebMD, is also
a mohel certified by the Berit Milah Board of Reform Judaism. He performs
approximately 50 circumcisions every year. "In almost 20 years of
experience, I have not seen one infection," he says.
Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement on
circumcision that concluded that the benefits are not significant enough to
recommend newborn circumcision as a routine procedure. The AAP believes parents
should be provided with accurate and unbiased information regarding both the
risks and benefits of circumcision when making a decision regarding their
So why perform circumcisions at all? Barrows says even if circumcision is
not immediately medically beneficial for newborns due to illness or bleeding
risk, the long-term medical benefits of the procedure do support its use in
most cases. "Most medical people agree that circumcision is worthwhile. ...
When you go back to the original data, the risk of cancer [and infection] ...
is clearly lower in circumcised men," he says. "[The] long-term
benefits are more clear," he adds. "We do a lot of things for our
children. Childhood vaccinations is an example; fluoride in water is another.
So is circumcision."
Barrows advises parents and their health care providers to discuss prior to
the delivery whether to perform a circumcision on a male infant. This
discussion should involve conversation about reducing pain to the newborn,
aftercare, possible complications, benefits, and costs.
- Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis, and the
decision to have a child circumcised is usually based on religious or cultural
- A new study shows that complications from circumcision occur in 1 out of
every 476 cases and can include bleeding and infection.
- The long-term benefits of circumcision include a lower risk of urinary
tract infections, penile cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases, but
quantifying how much lower is still a matter of debate.