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Treatments & Procedures

Circumcision

What is circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the sheath of tissue covering the head of the penis. It is an ancient practice that has its origin in religious rites. Today, many parents have their sons circumcised for religious or other reasons.

How is circumcision done?

During a circumcision, the foreskin is freed from the head of the penis (glans), and the excess foreskin is clipped off. If performed on a newborn, the procedure takes about five to 10 minutes. Adult circumcision takes about one hour. The circumcision generally heals in five to seven days.

When is circumcision done?

Circumcision usually is performed on the first or second day after birth. (For Jewish children, circumcision is done on the eighth day.) The procedure becomes more complicated and riskier in older babies, children, and men.

Is circumcision necessary?

The use of circumcision for medical or health reasons is an issue that continues to be debated. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn males. The procedure might be recommended in older boys and men to treat phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) or to treat an infection of the penis.

Parents should talk with their doctors about the benefits and risks of the procedure before making a decision regarding circumcision of their sons. Other factors, such as your culture, religion, and personal preference, also will affect your decision.

What are the benefits of circumcision?

There is some evidence that circumcision has medical benefits, including:

  • A decreased risk of urinary tract infections
  • A reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in men
  • Protection against penile cancer and a reduced risk of cervical cancer in female sex partners
  • Prevention of balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin)
  • Prevention of phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the retracted foreskin to its original location)

Circumcision also makes it easier to keep the end of the penis clean.

Note: Some studies show that good hygiene can help prevent certain problems with the penis, including infections and swelling, even if the penis is not circumcised. In addition, practicing safe sex is an important factor in reducing the risk of STDs and other infections.

What are the risks of circumcision?

Like any surgical procedure, there are risks associated with circumcision. However, the rate of problems associated with circumcision is low. Risks include:

  • Pain
  • Risk of bleeding and infection at the site of the circumcision
  • Irritation of the glans
  • Increased risk of meatitis (inflammation of the opening of the penis)
  • Risk of injury to the penis
References

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 4/8/2011...#9136