Undescended testes means one or both of the male testes have not passed down (descended) into the scrotal sac. This is a condition seen in some newborn baby boys. Most cases involve only one teste. About one in ten cases affect both testes.
Undescended testes are more often seen in babies who are born early (preterm or premature babies). This is because the testes don’t pass down from the belly into the scrotal sac until month 7 of a baby’s growth in the uterus. Other causes may include hormone problems or spina bifida.
It may be caused by a reflex that causes a testicle to move up and down from the scrotum back into the groin (retractile testes). In some cases, the testes are missing. In rare cases, a boy who has inguinal hernia repair may develop undescended testes.
This condition occurs in about 3 in 100 to 1 in 20 male babies. A baby is more at risk if he:
Symptoms can be a bit different in each child. The most common sign is when a healthcare provider can’t feel the testes during an exam. Most children don't have symptoms when they have an undescended testicle.
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she may also ask about your family’s health history. Your child's provider will examine your child's scrotum for testes at every well-child check. In some cases, imaging tests such as ultrasound or MRI are needed to find the testicles within the pelvis.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is. In many cases, the testes descend on their own into the scrotum by age 3 months. In most cases, the testes pass down by age 6 months without any treatment.
In other cases, treatment may be needed. This may include:
Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about what kind of treatment is advised for your child.
If testes don’t descend, this can cause problems such as:
Call the healthcare provider if your baby has no sign of testes in his scrotal sac.
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At Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., our pediatric urologists provide comprehensive care for disorders affecting reproductive and urinary organs.