What are penile adhesions
Penile adhesions in circumcised boys occur when the penile shaft skin adheres to the glans of the penis. There are three types of penile adhesions: glanular adhesions, penile skin bridges and cicatrix.
Some adhesions may develop due to an excess of residual foreskin following a newborn circumcision. Adhesions can also form as an infant develops more fat in his pubic area (the area around the penis and scrotum).
The penis may appear that it is “buried” in the prominent pubic fat pad. Because the penis remains hidden there is a tendency for the shaft skin to adhere to the glans.
With all adhesions you may notice a white discharge coming from the area of the adhesions. This is called smegma. Sometimes smegma can be mistaken for a cyst or pus under the skin, but it is not an infection and does not require antibiotics. Smegma consists of dead skin cells that accumulate underneath the adhesions and help to break them apart.
Diagnosis and treatment
Penile adhesions are generally benign and cause no pain or discomfort to your son. You or your pediatrician may notice them during a physical exam.
During our physical exam, we will determine what type of penile adhesion your son has and what treatment approach is best suited for your son.
On exam you may not be able to see the complete coronal margin. This is the purple line that separates the glans from the shaft of the penis. This is because the shaft skin has adhered to the glans, covering the coronal margin. Glanular adhesions are benign and when left alone tend to resolve on their own. To help the adhesions separate more quickly, we may suggest applying Vaseline® directly to the adhesions. The Vaseline will soften the adhesions, and with spontaneous erections, the adhesions will begin to break apart on their own.
Penile skin bridge
In some instance, the penile shaft skin will become attached to the coronal margin and develop a thicker permanent attachment that cannot be separated and will not separate on its own. You may notice a band of skin from the shaft adhering to the glans with a small tunnel underneath. In many situations the skin bridge can be divided during an outpatient procedure. Treatment may also involve division of the skin bridge and circumcision revision.
Following a circumcision, the penis may drop back into the pubic fat pad and the surgical area may contract, trapping the penis. In this situation, you will not be able to expose the glans of the penis at all. We have found that cicatrix can be safely and effectively treated with a topical steroid cream. Your child’s doctor will give you instructions on the proper use of the cream. If the steroid cream fails and the penis remains trapped, a circumcision revision and correction of a concealed penis may be necessary.
Reviewed by Jennifer Kirk, BSN, MSN, CPNP