Undescended Testicle - Medical Malpractice Lawyers

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Undescended Testicle - Medical Malpractice

In normal male babies, the testicles are located in the abdomen during part of in utero life and descend at some point in mid pregnancy into the scrotum where they remain. Testicles can retract up into the canal from which they came but this is usually a temporary phenomenon and does not represent an undescended testicle. The testicles, in their rested state, lie within the scrotum and function to make sperm and make male hormones for the male body and secondary sexual characteristics.

Sometimes baby boys are born without one or both testicles descended into scrotum. This is called an undescended testicle. Doctors can identify the problem usually at birth but sometimes the diagnosis isn't made until the child is older-up to one to two years of age.

Up to 30 percent of boys born prematurely will develop undescended testicles (one or both) and about 3-5 percent of term infants have the condition. Newborns with undescended testicles often have the testicle gradually descend into the scrotum at some point during the first few months of life. If a baby reaches 4 months of age and doesn't have both testicles descended, the doctor may need to intervene and treat the condition. The longer a testicle goes without being descended, the more damage occurs to the testicle and the greater is the chance of having a later testicular cancer.

As a parent, it may be difficult for you to know whether or not your child's testicle is undescended. It depends on a careful examination of the scrotum and testicles shortly after birth. The doctor needs to do this in a warm room so that the testicles don't retract due to the cold. An x-ray or ultrasound can be done in cases where the testicle is possibly undescended. It can tell the difference between a retracted testicle and one that is undescended.

Undescended testicles need to be treated as soon as they are discovered. An undescended testicle cannot make the same amount of sperm as a descended testicle. The amount of testosterone usually is the same with descended and undescended testicles, however. If the testicle doesn't drop down in the first year or so of life, it may be damaged by the heat of the body and will be forever unable to make enough healthy sperm. The child will have a lower than average sperm count. Sperm can be misshapen or damaged by being exposed to the heat of the body for too long.

In addition, the undescended testicle early in life will predispose the testicle to develop testicular cancer. Testicular cancer generally affects one out of 2000 men with an undescended testicle. It is much more rare if a man has two descended testicles. If the testicle remains in the abdomen and isn't ever descended, the chance of testicular cancer is high and the doctor or patient will be unable to feel the presence of the telltale lump in the testicle. This can lead to high stage testicular cancer.

The treatment of an undescended testicle includes the possibility of an orchiopexy. This can be done when the testicle is palpable within the groin but is not in the scrotum. This is an easy same day operation in which the testicle is pulled down and tacked onto the scrotal sac. The baby recovers very easily and there are no further problems. The doctor can also giver a hormone shot known as an HCG shot. This helps the testicles make more hormones so that the testicles drop down on their own. Adults with an undescended testicle may elect to have the testicle removed so that the testicle doesn't become cancerous. The surgery is relatively simple with a several day recovery time.

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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here