Undescended Testes

Undescended testes (or cryptochidism) is a condition seen in babies when one or both of the testes (testicle, male reproductive gland) have not passed down into the scrotal sac. Thirty percent of cases involve both testes. Cryptochidism is more commonly seen in premature males because the testes do not descend from the abdomen to the scrotal sac until the seventh month of fetal development.

What Causes Undescended Testes?

It is not always clear why the testes do not complete their normal descent. It mostly occurs in health, normal children with reasons not well understood. In some cirumstances, it is part of a syndrome or associated with a hormonal disorder.

Who Does Undescended Testes Affect?

  • Undescended testes occur in approximately 3 percent of male infants.
  • 21 percent of premature male infants have an undescended testis.
  • Undescended testes occur in 3 percent to 4 percent of full-term infants.
  • There is also a genetic component: 6 percent of fathers of males with undescended testes also had the condition.
  • In rare cases, boys who undergo an inguinal hernia repair may develop undescended testes.

What Are the Symptoms of Undescended Testes?

There are no symptoms of undescended testis unless a hernia or torsion occurs.

Who Diagnoses Undescended Testes?

A physical examination by parents and/or medical caregivers diagnoses undescended testes.

Treatment for Undescended Testes

Undescended testes may fall without any intervention by the time the infant is 6 months old. Resolution occurs as the testicles (or testes) descend through the inguinal canal (a small internal passageway that runs along the abdomen near the groin) into the scrotal sac. If the testicles have not come down by 6 months of age, the testicles may not descend at all.

Specific Treatment for Undescended Testes Determined by Your Child’s Doctor Is Based On:

  • Your child’s age, overall health, and medical history
  • The extent of the condition
  • Your child’s tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • Expectations for the course of the condition
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment for Undescended Testes May Include:

  • Hormonal therapy – Administration of certain hormones may stimulate the production of testosterone, which helps the testes descend into the scrotal sac. The treatment of truly undescended testicles is not usually hormonal therapy.
  • Surgical repair – Surgery to locate the undescended testicle and advance it to the scrotal sac may be recommended by your child’s physician. This surgery is usually performed between months 6 and 18 and is successful in 98 percent of children with this condition.
  • Removal of the testis – If the testis is abnormally developed and/or too high in the abdomen to reach the scrotum it may be best to remove it. This is because it probably will not function normally and may still have some risk of developing a tumor (cancer).

What Happens if Cryptochidism Is Not Repaired?

The following complications may occur as your child grows and matures:

  • Infertility (most common in bilateral cases— both testes are affected)
  • The undescended testis has an increased risk of developing cancer
  • Inguinal hernia (a weakened area in the lower abdominal wall or inguinal canal where intestines may protrude)
  • Testicular torsion (a painful twisting of the testes that can decrease blood supply to the testes)
  • Psychological consequences of an empty scrotum

Georgia Pediatric Urology’s expertise includes the evaluation and treatment of undescended testes hernias. Call today to schedule an appointment with a physician in one of our convenient office locations.