As a baby boy
grows inside his mother, he develops
testicles. Early in his development, his testicles are
in his belly. Normally, before he is born, his testicles move down into his
scrotum, the sac that hangs below the penis. When one
testicle does not move into the scrotum as it should, the baby has an
undescended testicle. In rare cases, both testicles
It is most common in baby boys who
were born before their due date or who were very small at birth.
Doctors don't really know what causes an undescended testicle. This common condition runs in some families (can be
Most of the time, the testicle descends (drops) on
its own by the time the baby is 3 months old. If your baby's testicle hasn't dropped by the time he is 6 months of age, your doctor may suggest
What are the symptoms?
testicle doesn't cause pain or other symptoms. The scrotum may look a little
smoother or less developed on one side, or the side without a testicle may look
smaller and flatter. You can't feel the testicle in the scrotum on the side where it hasn't descended.
How is an undescended testicle diagnosed?
newborn and well-baby visits, your doctor will check your baby's scrotum.
If the testicle can be felt but it is not in
the scrotum, the doctor will probably want to check your baby again at 3 to 6
months of age. By this time, the testicle may have moved into place on its own.
Sometimes the doctor can't feel the testicle at all. It could
still be in the baby's belly, it could be too small to feel, or it could be
absent. The doctor may recommend a type of
laparoscopy to see if he or she can find the testicle.
Laparoscopy requires only a small cut below the belly button, which heals
If both testicles are undescended and can't be felt in the
groin, the doctor will do a blood hormone test to find out if the testicles are
absent. This means having no testicles at all. It is very rare to have two absent testicles.
Some other conditions are closely related to undescended testicles, such as an ectopic or retractile testicle. In both of these conditions, the testicle is in an abnormal position in the groin or scrotum. Your
doctor will take care to make the correct diagnosis so your child can get the
How is it treated?
Usually doctors recommend a
wait-and-see approach for newborns. If the testicle
hasn't dropped on its own within 6 months, your doctor may
recommend surgery (orchiopexy or orchidopexy). Surgery is done when the baby is 9 to
15 months old. It is safe and effective and has few risks. Most babies recover quickly.
When babies have a testicle that can't be felt, doctors may do a different surgery that needs only a small
Another treatment is hormone therapy. It may cause the testicle to drop down into the scrotum. If it works, surgery isn't needed. But it doesn't always work, and it may cause side effects.
Why is it important to treat an undescended testicle?
Treatment is important, because having an undescended testicle increases
the risk of:
Damage to a testicle's sperm-making ability can begin as early as 12 months of age. That's why many
doctors advise treating an undescended testicle by the time a baby is 1 year
old and no later than age 2. Treatment helps lower the chance of infertility.
Cancer of the testicles. Men who were born with undescended testicles have a higher rate of testicular cancer than other men. But this cancer is rare. It can be cured if found early. If you are a young man who was born with an undescended testicle, talk with your
doctor about what you should do.
This American Academy of Pediatrics website has information for parents about childhood issues, from before the child is born to young adulthood. You'll find information on child growth and development, immunizations, safety, health issues, behavior, and much more.
Urology Care Foundation: The Official Foundation of the American Urological
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.