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Treatment

Undescended testicles will usually move down into the scrotum naturally by the time your child is 3 to 6 months old.

If the testicles don't descend by 6 months, it's very unlikely they will without treatment.

In this case, a surgical procedure called an orchidopexy will be recommended to reposition one or both testicles.

The operation should ideally be carried out before your child's 12 months old.

This is because waiting longer than this may increase a boy's risk of developing fertility problems or testicular cancer later in life.

Orchidopexy

In most cases, if the testicle can be felt in the groin, a simple orchidopexy can be performed.

This involves first making a cut (incision) in the groin to locate the undescended testicle.

The testicle is then moved downwards and repositioned in the scrotum through a second incision.

If the testicle is thought to be higher in the tummy (abdomen), a type of keyhole surgery known as a laparoscopy is sometimes carried out to locate it before it's repositioned.

This involves passing a laparoscope (a small tube containing a light source and a camera) through a small incision in your child's abdomen.

A testicle found inside the abdomen can occasionally be brought down to the scrotum in a single operation, but sometimes this has to be done in 2 separate stages.

In cases where the testicle is in the abdomen (impalpable), there's a small possibility that there's no testicle at all on that side.

This is either because it didn't develop properly or it twisted and withered away early in life. This would be confirmed during the laparoscopy.

When the procedure is complete, the incisions are usually closed with dissolvable stitches that don't need to be removed.

Orchidopexies and laparoscopies are performed under a general anaesthetic, which means your child will be asleep during the procedure and won't feel any pain while it's carried out.

The operation normally takes about 1 hour and is usually performed as day surgery, which means your child will be able to return home on the same day.

Recovery

Your child may feel a bit unwell for the first 24 hours after surgery as a result of the anaesthetic. This is nothing to worry about.

The following advice should help to speed up your child's recovery time and reduce their risk of developing any complications:

When to seek medical advice

Be alert for any signs that the site of the surgery has become infected.

These include:

If you notice any of these signs and symptoms, contact your GP as soon as possible for advice.

Results of surgery

As a general rule, the closer the testicle is to the scrotum originally, the more likely it is that surgery will be successful.

The success rate for treating palpable testicles located near the scrotum is estimated to be higher than 90%.

The operation is slightly less successful in treating impalpable testicles located in the abdomen.

Risks of surgery

As with any type of surgery, an orchidopexy carries the risk of complications, some of which may need to be treated with further surgery.

Possible side effects and complications of an orchidopexy include:

In general, complication rates are low. The main risk is loss (atrophy) of the testicle.

The chances of this increase the further the testicle has to be moved to get to the scrotum.