What are undescended testicles?
An undescended testicle, also known as cryptorchidism, is a testicle that hasn't moved into its proper position in the bag of skin hanging below the penis (the scrotum) before birth.
Testicles form in the abdomen as a baby develops in the womb then typically move down, or descend, into the scrotum shortly before birth. At the time of birth, 2-3 percent of boys will have a testicle that has not yet fully descended.
In these cases, the testicle will typically descend on its own within the first six months of life. If it does not descend by around that age, it is considered an undescended testicle.
Who is at risk?
This condition can occur in one or both of the testicles and it is more common in boys born prematurely. Undescended testicles can increase the potential for fertility issues and the risk of testicular cancer and testicular torsion (a serious condition that can occur if a testicle rotates and the cord that brings blood to the scrotum becomes twisted).
Symptoms of an undescended testicle
There are typically no issues like pain or trouble urinating associated with an undescended testicle.
At times it may appear that the scrotum looks empty and you cannot see the testicle(s). Sometimes it is easiest to see the testicles in the scrotum when the child is sitting in a warm bath or asleep.
Testing and diagnosis
Undescended testicles are typically detected during a physical exam. During the assessment, the testicle may be noted along the path the testicle takes as it makes its way to the scrotum.
If the testicle is not felt in the scrotum by 6-9 months of age, surgery is recommended. The procedure is called an orchiopexy.
During this procedure, a CHoR pediatric urologist will bring the testicle into the scrotum and permanently fixed there so that it cannot move back out of the scrotum.
The surgery is performed in the operating room under anesthesia and the child will typically go home the same day as the procedure.