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Rady Children's Specialists

Undescended Testis

What is an undescended testicle?

An undescended testicle is a testicle that is located outside of the scrotum.  During the end of pregnancy, the testis travel from the abdomen down into the scrotum. When this fails to occur, the testicle remains undescended. When a testicle is not found in the scrotum it may be in the abdomen, groin, or may be completely absent. Undescended testis can be associated with inability to have children or increased risk of testicular cancer.

What are signs/symptoms of an undescended testicle?

When the testicle is not palpable within the scrotum, usually present at birth, the testicle is undescended. This is different from a retractile testicle that bounces around between the scrotum and groin area.

How common is an undescended testicle?

An undescended testicle occurs in about 30 percent of premature male infants and 3 percent of full term male infants. Infants are at increased risk if they have low birth weight or are premature.

How is the diagnosis made? Are any special tests necessary?

The diagnosis is made primarily by physical exam. No special testing is required before seeing the pediatric urologist.

How is an undescended testicle treated?

If the diagnosis is made right after birth, nothing is done initially as many testicles will drop into the correct position early in life. If the testicle is still not down by 6 months of age, surgery is recommended to bring the testicle into the scrotum and stitch it into place. This is called an orchiopexy.

Sometimes a testicle is not palpable, even in the groin. In these cases it is possible that a testicle is absent. However, surgery is still recommended to explore for a testicle. If a testicle is found that is malformed it will likely be removed.