What is cryptorchidism or undescended testes?

Cryptorchidism or cryptorchidism is a disorder characterized by an incomplete descent of one or both testicles through the inguinal canal into the scrotum. According to specialized sources, we speak of the pathology when the testicle is permanently absent from the scrotal bag at six months of age or more.

The prevalence of this condition, that is, the number of affected patients in a given population, is estimated to be 3% to 5% in full-term newborn infants. This value can increase up to 30% in premature infants. If you want to know more about cryptorchidism and its characteristics, keep reading.

What can cause the testicles not to descend properly?

As indicated by professional portals such as the Mayo Clinic, the causes of cryptorchidism are not yet entirely clear. The etiology of the disease is attributed both to environmental factors (maternal and fetal conditions and exposure to chemical agents) as well as to genetic factors and syndromes that present with malformations.

Cryptorchidism is distributed as follows in infants around the world:

  • 3% to 5% of children born at term have cryptorchidism.
  • Up to 45% of premature infants come into the world with undescended testicles.
  • By three months of age, this value drops to 1% or 2%.
  • Just a 1% of children present cryptorchidism at one year of age.

In addition to all these data, it is interesting to know that 10% of patients present both testes without descending, that is, most of the clinical pictures are unilateral. Be that as it may, we are facing a pathology linked to infants born before their time.

Prematurity is often associated with undescended testicles.

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Who is affected by cryptorchidism?

This pathology is related to the time and condition of birth. The risk groups prone to cryptorchidism are the following:

  • Children with low birth weight, that is, with less than 2500 grams of body mass.
  • Premature birth.
  • Family history of cryptorchidism or other problems of a testicular nature.
  • Fetal conditions during pregnancy that can hinder development.
  • Use of alcohol, tobacco, or exposure to certain chemicals by the mother during pregnancy.

Symptoms and possible complications

The only obvious symptom is the absence of one or both testicles in the scrotum.. In 80% of cases the non-visible testicles are palpable, while in the remaining 20% ​​they are so retracted that they cannot be touched. Even so, it should be noted that most are transitory and are solved after six months of life.

Unfortunately, as the US National Library of Medicine indicates, undescended testes are more likely to develop cancer. In addition to this, an incorrect temperature of the sperm (due to the proximity to the body) can translate into fertility problems.

What is undescended testicle repair?

The objective of the intervention in patients with cryptorchidism is to descend the testicle that did not do so naturally at the time. According to sources already cited, different paths can be taken to address the pathology. Among them we find the following:

  • Hormone treatment: injections of B-HCG or testosterone can cause an infant's testicular descent.
  • Testicular prostheses and saline solutions: ideal for cases in which the patient completely loses one or both testicles.
  • Surgery: we will expand more deeply on this method in the following lines.

Surgical procedure and risks

The surgical procedure that seeks to lower the testicles into the scrotum is called orchidopexy. The surgeon will carefully bring the testicle into place and sew it up, fixing it. According to the portal Stanfords Children Health, this operation has a 98% chance of success.

Among the possible risks of it we find the following:

  • Injury to the spermatic vessels and testicular atrophy.
  • Hemorrhage during surgery, postoperative, or both.
  • Appearance of an inguinal hernia.
  • Bacterial infection due to the procedure.
  • Opening of the wound during recovery that requires a second intervention.


The patient should remain at rest for 2 to 3 days after the intervention and refraining from physical exercise for at least a month to protect the sutures. In addition, once the bandage is removed, the sanitization process in the area of ​​the surgical incision is performed twice a day.

This is done in order to avoid unwanted infections. The stitches applied during sewing fall off on their own, so it is not necessary to go to the doctor for their removal.

The consumption of toxins during pregnancy is another risk factor for cryptorchidism.

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Cryptorchidism has a solution

That a child is born with one or both testicles undescended is not usually a cause for concern, as up to 99% of cases resolve on their own in less than a year. Even so, in patients who do not recover, hormone treatment or surgery are safe and excellent options.

Cryptorchidism or cryptorchidism has a solution in almost all cases, whether it is time to undergo surgery or not. Therefore, if you are a father and you see that your son has an undescended testicle, don't worry; it is almost certain that it will not affect your lifestyle and it will be able to develop normally after appropriate treatment.