The goal of treatment is to move the undescended testicle to its proper location in the scrotum. Early treatment (before 1 year of age) might lower the risk of complications of an undescended testicle, such as infertility and testicular cancer.
An undescended testicle is usually corrected with surgery. The surgeon carefully manipulates the testicle into the scrotum and stitches it into place (orchiopexy). This procedure can be done either with a laparoscope or with open surgery.
When your son has surgery will depend on a number of factors, such as your son's health and how difficult the procedure might be. Your surgeon will likely recommend doing the surgery after your son is 3 to 6 months old and before he is 12 months old. Early surgical treatment appears to lower the risk of later complications.
In some cases, the testicle may be poorly developed, abnormal or dead tissue. The surgeon will remove this testicular tissue.
If your son also has an inguinal hernia associated with the undescended testicle, the hernia is repaired during the surgery.
After surgery, the surgeon will monitor the testicle to see that it continues to develop, function properly and stay in place. Monitoring might include:
- Physical exam
- Ultrasound exam of the scrotum
- Tests of hormone levels
Hormone treatment involves the injection of human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). This hormone could cause the testicle to move to your son's scrotum. Hormone treatment is not usually recommended because it is much less effective than surgery.
If your son doesn't have one or both testicles — either missing or didn't survive after surgery — you might consider saline testicular prostheses for the scrotum that can be implanted during late childhood or adolescence. These prostheses give the scrotum a normal appearance.
If your son doesn't have at least one healthy testicle, your doctor will refer you to a hormone specialist (endocrinologist) to discuss future hormone treatments that would be necessary to bring about puberty and physical maturity.
The most common surgical procedure for correcting a single descending testicle (orchiopexy) has a success rate of nearly 100 percent. Fertility for males after surgery with a single undescended testicle is nearly normal, but falls to 65 percent in men with two undescended testicles. Surgery may reduce the risk of testicular cancer, but it does not eliminate it.
April 11, 2013
- Ashley RA, et al. Cryptorchidism: Pathogenesis, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Urologic Clinics of North America. 2010;37:183.
- Cooper CS, et al. Undescended testes (cryptorchidism) in children and adolescents. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 15, 2013.
- Kliegman RM, et al. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/das/book/body/208746819-6/0/1608/0.html. Accessed Feb. 15, 2013.
- Lao OB, et al. Pediatric inguinal hernias, hydroceles, and undescended testicles. Surgical Clinics of North America. 2012;92:487.
- Nippoldt TB (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2013.
- Granberg CF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2013.