Undescended Testicles (Cryptorchidism)
This describes the condition when an infant boy’s testicle(s) fail to drop into the normal place in the scrotum.
Undescended testicles are more common in premature babies, but the cause is generally unknown. In some cases, the testis may be abnormal. In other cases, there could be a mechanical issue.
A pediatrician examines a baby between birth and three months old to locate any testicle which is not visible. “Nonpalpable” testicles are testicles that cannot be located during a physical exam. The testis may be found in the abdomen (undescended), absent or very small (“atrophic”).
An undescended testicle left inside the abdomen could form a tumor later in life, so a child may need laparoscopy to determine if there is a testicle and to locate it inside the body.
If the testicle is found in the abdomen but has not dropped by age three months, the child will need surgery, called an orchiopexy, no earlier than age six months.
During the surgical procedure called orchiopexy, the testicle is released from all nearby tissues so that it moves easily into the scrotum. Then, it is stitched into place.
Generally, the testis grows to a normal size in the scrotum, and fertility is normal for most patients. As a teen, the patient should undergo routine physical exams and perform monthly testicular self-exams to monitor for signs of testicular cancer, for which he is at slight risk.