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As the baby develops inside his mother’s uterus, the testicles are formed inside the abdomen and start their downward journey into the scrotum. The descending of testicles from the abdomen into the scrotum occurs shortly before birth with the release of hormones in the baby's body.
In some cases, the testicles do not descend in time for birth.
Is surgical intervention always needed to correct undescended testicles?
Fortunately, 50% of undescended testicles descend into the correct position by the first 3 months of a newborn's life.
If testicles do not descend after 3 months of age, medical intervention is needed to prevent fertility problems in the future.
Are all undescended testicles diagnosed at birth? I can't find my baby's testicles, is this normal?
It is important to distinguish between undescended testicles, present at birth, and the normal retractile testicle reaction.
By design, testicles need to be at a temperature lower than normal body temperature to produce sperm normally. The scrotum is naturally several degrees cooler than body temperature and is an ideal cradle for the testicles.
In some boys, the testicles retract due to an overactive muscle responding to cold or fear. This natural reflex begins at 6 months of age.
Your pediatrician will help you rule out any case of undescended testicles in the initial 1 week and 1 month screening.
Are undescended testicles dangerous?
An undescended testicle can cause fertility problems in the future. Moreover, the presence of an undescended testicle increases risk for testicular cancer and hernia.
For such reasons, doctors recommend medical intervention by the 6th month of age.
What if the testicles can't be felt during initial examination?
Doctors refer to testicles that cannot be felt during physical examination as "nonpalpable" testicles. Nonpalpable testicles are often located in the abdomen, small in size or absent all together.
It is important to let your doctor decide the appropriate course of action, even if it means extensive medical intervention. Some doctors may recommend a laparoscopy to find the testicles.
If testicles are left undiscovered in the abdomen, they pose a high risk for tumor formation later in life.
What happens during surgery and after surgery?
Surgery usually requires general anesthesia and involves a small incision – barely visible in later stages of life – in the groin area. After surgery, your child can go home the same day and will feel better within one to two days.
Success rates for this surgery are exceptionally high at 98%. More complex procedures may be needed if the undescended testicles are present in the abdomen.
Will my son have normal sexual function in the future?
After surgery, the chances for normal fertility and sexual function are high. In rare cases, if the testicle is abnormal, it will not grow as needed and sperm will not be developed leading to infertility.
Follow-up visits during childhood and teenage are recommended ensuring the safety and wellbeing of your son.
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