Some infants are born with testes that have not descended into the scrotum. Instead, one or both remain in the abdominal cavity, the groin or the upper scrotum. This condition is known as undescended testicles or cryptorchidism and is treatable by expert pediatric urologists at Riley at IU Health.
Undescended testes are more common in premature infants (up to 30 percent) than in full-term babies (only 3 percent). Fortunately, only a small percentage of boys (approximately 1 percent) require treatment because the testicles often descend as babies grow and develop.
This condition is usually diagnosed during the first year of life by a parent or pediatrician. Boys are sometimes diagnosed with undescended testes later in childhood or in adolescence.
The first step in diagnosis for undescended testes is repeated testicular examination. Other diagnostic tools are laparoscopy and, in rare cases, imaging such as ultrasound. The condition falls on a spectrum, from the least to the most serious:
Our highly skilled physicians are trained to diagnose and treat your child’s undescended testicles wherever he falls on the spectrum. A visit with one of our pediatric urologists begins by collecting a history and finishes with a physical exam. Sometimes our experts can feel testicles that cannot be felt or seen by you or your child’s physician.
Occasionally, a surgery known as an orchiopexy may be necessary to find the undescended testicle and correct the problem, depending on where the testicle is located. The surgery may be performed through a small incision on the scrotum, on the groin or both. In rare cases, some children need more than one procedure due to complicated anatomies that must be corrected in stages.
Laparoscopic surgery is sometimes needed. Urologists insert tiny instruments and a camera through small incisions to find the testicle and correct the problem. In most cases, we use an open incision in the groin, scrotum or both. Sometimes the approach cannot be determined until we are in the operating room.
Undescended testes should not be left untreated, and early treatment is recommended. Surgical correction preserves how testicles produce sperm. Treatment also reduces the risk of testicular cancer, which is slightly higher in boys with undescended testes.
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
This website publishes research, summaries, reviews and reports for consumers, policymakers and healthcare providers, including a summary about treatment for undescended testicle.
This organization supports pediatricians and offers information for parents about undescended testicle through its website, HealthyChildren.org.
This organization provides education and support to family physicians. Their online publication, American Family Physician, includes articles about health conditions such as undescended testicle.
This National Institutes of Health website offers information and links about health conditions, including undescended testicle(s).
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