Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin of the penis. In the U.S., circumcision of a newborn boy is usually done before he leaves the hospital. Among the Jewish population, circumcision is done on the eighth day.
The status of circumcision is currently under debate. There is NOT a compelling medical rationale for the procedure. Neither is there a compelling reason to avoid circumcision.
Many physicians, rather than routinely recommending circumcision, allow the parents to make the decision after presenting them with the "pros" and "cons."
How Is It Done?
A numbing medication (local anesthesia such as Xylocaine) is injected at the base of the penis to reduce pain. The foreskin is pushed from the head of the penis and clamped with a metal or plastic ring-like device.
If the ring is metal, the foreskin is excised and the metal device removed. The circumcision heals in 5-7 days.
If the ring is plastic, a piece of suture is tied tightly around the foreskin. This pushes the tissue into a groove in the plastic over the head of the penis. Within 5-7 days, the plastic covering the penis falls free, leaving a completely healed circumcision.
The reasons for circumcision are generally cultural or religious. At the present time, the American Academy of Pediatrics is not recommending routine circumcision for newborn males.
However, a study of a large number (14,893) of male newborns revealed that 86% of the uncircumcised infants developed a urinary tract infection under one year of age, which led to higher health care costs and hospital days than in the circumcised group. Previous older studies have also shown the relationship between uncircumcised male infants and increased urinary tract infections.
The age-old practice of infant circumcision must remain the decision of the parents. For both newborns and older children, circumcision is considered a very safe procedure with complete healing expected.
What Are The Risks?
The risks include:
- Injury to the penis
Healing time for newborns usually takes about 1 week. Apply petroleum jelly after diaper changes to protect the healing incision. Some initial swelling and yellow crust formation around the incision is normal.
Call your pediatrician or surgeon if fresh bleeding occurs, the entire penis looks red and swollen, or pus drains from around the incision.
Review Date: February 9, 2000
Reviewed By: J. Gordon Lambert, M.D., Associate Medical Director, RxRemedy.
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