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Circumcision

View a PDF version of our "Circumcision" fact sheet.

Read the "Circumcision: What Parents Should Know" article from the Spring 2013 edition of UrologyHealth extra magazine.

The American Urological Association (AUA) believes that circumcision, removal of the foreskin of the penis, performed on a newborn (neonatal) has potential medical benefits and advantages as well as disadvantages and risks.

Neonatal circumcision is generally a rapid and safe procedure when performed by an experienced physician. There are immediate risks to circumcision such as bleeding, infection and penile injury, as well as complications recognized later that may include buried penis, meatal stenosis, skin bridges, chordee and poor cosmetic appearance. Some of these complications might require surgical correction. Nevertheless, when performed on healthy newborn infants as an elective procedure, the incidence of serious complications is extremely low. The minor complications are reported to be three percent.

Properly performed neonatal circumcision prevents phimosis, paraphimosis and balanoposthitis, and is associated with a decreased incidence of cancer of the penis among U.S. males. In addition, there is a connection between the foreskin and urinary tract infections in the neonate. For the first three to six months of life, the incidence of urinary tract infections is at least ten times higher in uncircumcised than circumcised boys. Evidence associating circumcision with reduced incidence of sexually transmitted diseases is conflicting. Circumcision may be required in a small number of uncircumcised boys when phimosis, paraphimosis or recurrent balanoposthitis occur and may be requested for ethnic and cultural reasons after the newborn period. Circumcision in these children usually requires general anesthesia.

When circumcision is being discussed with parents and informed consent obtained, medical benefits and risks, and ethnic, cultural, religious and individual preferences should be considered. The risks and disadvantages of circumcision are encountered early whereas the advantages and benefits may be prospective.

See Meatal Stenosis for more information

Last reviewed: January 2011

Last updated: May 2014

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Circumcision Glossary
  • anesthesia: Loss of sensation in any part of the body induced by a numbing or paralyzing agent. Often used during surgery to put a person to sleep.

  • balanoposthitis: Inflammation of glans and foreskin.

  • buried penis: Also referred to as concealed or hidden penis. Condition where the penile shaft is buried below the surface of the pubic skin.

  • buried penis: Also called concealed penis or hidden penis. A normal-sized penis that lays hidden in the pubic fat pad. Often this penis can easily be exposed by gently pulling on it or pressing down on the surrounding fat pad.

  • cancer: An abnormal growth that can invade nearby structures and spread to other parts of the body and may be a threat to life.

  • chordee: Abnormal downward bend of the penis during an erection.

  • circumcise: To remove all or part of the foreskin from the penis.

  • circumcised: Removed all or part of the foreskin of the penis.

  • circumcision: The surgical removal of all or part of the skin covering the end of the penis, called the foreskin.

  • foreskin: The loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis.

  • gene: The basic unit capable of transmitting characteristics from one generation to the next.

  • general anesthesia: Person is put to sleep with muscle relaxation and no pain sensation over the entire body.

  • infection: A condition resulting from the presence of bacteria or other microorganisms.

  • ions: Electrically charged atoms.

  • meatal stenosis: Narrowing at the end of the urine channel at the tip of the penis.

  • neonatal: Newborn baby.

  • paraphimosis: Condition in which the foreskin is trapped behind the glans penis and cannot be pulled down to cover the head of the penis.

  • penis: The male organ used for urination and sex.

  • phimosis: Condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back behind the head of the penis.

  • skin bridges: Adherence of two skin surfaces.

  • urinary: Relating to urine.

  • urinary tract: The system that takes wastes from the blood and carries them out of the body in the form of urine. Passageway from the kidneys to the ureters, bladder and urethra.

  • urinary tract infection: Also referred to as UTI. An illness caused by harmful bacteria, viruses or yeast growing in the urinary tract.

  • urology: Branch of medicine concerned with the urinary tract in males and females and with the genital tract and reproductive system of males.

Circumcision Anatomical Drawings

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