What is an Undescended Testicle?

Front view of infant showing urinary system and pathways of descending testicles.During the development of a fetus, the testicles (male sex organs) form near the kidneys. As the fetus grows, the testicles descend (move down) into the scrotum. Normally, they’re in the scrotum before the baby is born. An undescended testicle doesn’t fully descend into the scrotum.

Common sites of an undescended testicle

Most often, the undescended testicle stops between the groin and the scrotum. Sometimes the undescended testicle stops above the groin. Or it may stray off the normal pathway.

Locating an undescended testicle

The undescended testicle can usually be felt during a physical exam. Your baby lies on his back for the exam. An older child may be asked to squat. The doctor places his or her fingers on the child’s groin and then gently moves them toward the scrotum until the testicle is felt. If the testicle can’t be found with an exam, imaging studies, such as ultrasound, or other special tests may be needed.

Watchful waiting

The doctor will most likely wait for a few months to see if your son’s testicle will descend on its own. The closer the testicle is to the scrotum, the greater the chance it will come down. If the testicle does not descend on its own, it can still be treated. If both testicles have not descended, or if the testicle is above the groin, the doctor may advise treatment.

Treatment

If the testicle does not descend on its own by 6 months of age, surgery may be needed. If the testicle can be felt, surgery is done to move it into the scrotum. If the testicle can’t be felt, the surgeon may first do an exam to locate it while the child is under anesthesia. If the testicle is drawn up above the groin, it may not be felt on exam. Surgery can still be done to move it from the abdomen into the scrotum.



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