Circumcision is a surgical procedure in which the skin covering the tip of the penis, called the foreskin, is removed. It is a common procedure performed on newborn boys in certain parts of the world, including the United States. Circumcision is possible after the newborn period, but the procedure is more complex and there is a greater risk of complications.
Why is it Done?
Sometimes circumcision is part of a religious ritual or a family tradition. Circumcision is a religious tradition in both Judaism and Islam. It is also a ritual among certain aboriginal tribes in Australian and Africa. Often when it is part of cultural or traditional practice, the procedure is performed in a type of ceremony or celebration such as a bris (in the Jewish tradition).
Other times circumcision is performed for preventive health care or personal hygiene. Both the American Urological Association (AUA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have official opinions on the medical benefits and risks of circumcision. Both agree that the procedure should be a choice offered to new parents. The AAP’s position is that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks.
The circumcision procedure is relatively simple and usually quick. It is a safe procedure with a low risk of complications when performed by a qualified and skilled doctor.
There is evidence that doing the circumcision in the newborn period is less painful for babies as when they are 7 to 10 days old, they have a higher level of endorphins that can reduce pain. That is why it is recommended to have circumcision done in this time period.
For a procedure on a newborn:
- The baby is placed on his back and his arms and legs will be restrained.
- The penis and the surrounding area will be prepped and cleansed
- an anesthetic will be given either by injection at the base of the penis or as a topical cream.
- A special clamp or plastic ring is attached to the penis to give the doctor better access to the foreskin.
- The doctor then cuts away the foreskin.
- The penis is then covered in ointment, often including a topical antibiotic, and bandaged loosely with gauze.
The entire procedure should be done in about 10 minutes.
The penis heals in about 10 days and proper aftercare instructions should be followed. This includes keeping the penis clean and avoiding pressure on the area. The bandage should be changed with each diaper change and diapers should not be too tight. It is also recommended to apply petroleum jelly to the penis to prevent it from sticking to the diaper.
The process is similar for older children and adults. However, general anesthesia may be used and recovery may take longer. The risk of complications may also be higher in older individuals.
While circumcision is often associated with religious or cultural traditions, some people choose to have a baby circumcised because there are some medical benefits. Benefits may include:
- Easier hygiene
- Lower risk of HIV
- Decreased risk of urinary tract infection
- Lower risk of sexually transmitted disease
- Prevention of penile disorders like phimosis
- Lower risk of penile cancer
Because circumcision is a simple and safe procedure, there is a low chance of risks. Bad side effects are rare. The most common side effect is bleeding or infection after the procedure. If the procedure is done improperly there can be damage done to the urethra or injury to the penis.
In rare cases, there may be side effects that are not noticeable until later. These conditions may need to be corrected with surgery. Those conditions can include mental stenosis, skin bridges, curved penis, and the penis “not looking right.”
At Alliance Urology Specialists, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized urology care. Our board-certified physicians can provide you with information and guidance on a variety of urological issues, including circumcision. To schedule an appointment, call Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro at (336) 274-1114.