As the male fetus grows, the testicles develop near the kidneys. The testicles travel down into the scrotum between 28 and 40 weeks gestation. At birth 2 to 3 percent of boys
Undescended Testes Illustration will have one testicle that is not in the scrotum. The final descent of the testis may take up to six months after birth, but usually occurs within 3 months of birth. If a testicle has not reached the scrotum by 6 months of age, it is considered an undescended testicle. This can occur to one or both testicles.
Boys generally do not have symptoms associated with an undescended testicle. It is the physical exam that will uncover the diagnosis. On exam, the undescended testicle may be felt anywhere along the path that the testicle takes as it descends. It may be palpable or non-palpable (unable to feel upon examination).
If the testicle is not felt in the scrotum by 6 months of age, or if the testis is very high at 3 months of age, our team in the Division of Urology will recommend surgery. The surgical procedure to bring the testicle down into the scrotum is called an orchiopexy.
We perform these surgeries in the operating room. Generally a small incision is made in the groin area and in the scrotum. The testicle is pulled down and placed in a small pouch in the scrotum and attached with stitches. Your child should be able to go home the same day.
Each year, our physicians perform nearly 600 orchideopexies. It is one of the more common surgeries we do in our Division.
Research regarding undescended testicles is ongoing at the Children’s Hospital. We have a clinical database of patients who have undergone surgery.
Our current projects are looking for associations between information we obtained at the time of the child’s surgery (e.g., the location of the testes at birth and the number and type of cells present in the testis) with semen analysis, testis ultrasound and hormonal data we obtained once the patients turned 18.
Molecular research is aimed at identifying the genes associated with the causes of an undescended testicle and the long-term possibility of infertility in boys born with undescended testes.
Visit our andrology and infertility research section for more information.
Reviewed by: Division of Urology
Date: May 2011