Type of Surgery
Last updated: 02/17/2009
To understand the reasons for performing an orchiopexy in children, it is helpful to have an outline of the normal pattern of development of the testes in a male infant. The gubernaculum is an embryonic cord-like ligament that attaches the testes within...
the inguinal (groin) region of a male fetus up through the seventh month of pregnancy. Between the 28th and the 35th week of pregnancy, the gubernaculum migrates into the scrotum and creates space for the testes to descend. In normal development, the testes have followed the gubernaculum downward into the scrotum by the time the baby is born. The normal pattern may be interrupted by several possible factors, including inadequate androgen (male sex hormone) secretion, structural abnormalities in the boy's genitals, and defective nerves in the genital region.
Orchiopexy is performed in children for several reasons:
- To minimize the risk of infertility. Adult males with cryptorchidism typically have lower sperm counts and produce sperm of poorer quality than men with normal testicles. The risk of infertility rises with increasing age at the time of orchiopexy and whether both testicles are affected. Men with one undescended testicle have a 40% chance of being infertile; this figure rises to 70% in men with bilateral cryptorchidism.
- To lower the risk of testicular cancer. The incidence of malignant tumors in undescended testes has been estimated to be 48 times the incidence in normal testes. Men with cryptorchidism have a 10% chance of eventually developing testicular cancer.
- To lower the risk of traumatic injury to the testicle. Undescended testicles that remain in the patient's groin area are vulnerable to sports injuries and pressure from car seat belts.
- To prevent the development of an inguinal hernia. An inguinal hernia is a disorder that occurs when a portion of the contents of the abdomen pushes through an abnormal opening in the abdominal wall. It is likely to occur in a male infant with cryptorchidism because a sac known as the processus vaginalis, which connects the scrotum and the abdominal cavity, remains open after birth. In normal development, the processus vaginalis closes shortly after the testes descend into the scrotum. If the sac remains open, a section of the child's intestine can extend into the sac. It may become trapped (incarcerated) in the sac, forming what is called a strangulated hernia. The portion of the intestine that is trapped in the sac may die, which is a medical emergency.
- To prevent testicular torsion in adolescence.
- To maintain the appearance of a normal scrotum. Orchiopexy is considered a necessary procedure for psychological reasons, as boys with only one visible testicle are frequently subjected to teasing and ridicule after they start school.
The primary reason for performing an orchiopexy in an adolescent or adult male is treatment of testicular torsion, rather than cryptorchidism. Testicles that have not descended by the time a boy reaches puberty are usually removed by a complete orchiectomy.
Orchiopexy (or orchidopexy) is a surgery to move an undescended testicle into the scrotum and permanently fix it there. It is performed by a pediatric urologist or surgeon on boys with cryptorchidism, typically before they reach the age of two. Some patients remain undiagnosed until their teenage years and undergo the surgery at that time.
The undescended testicle may be located within the normal line of descent (for example, in the inguinal canal) or high in the scrotum or ectopically (i.e. the abdomen). The surgeon may use an endoscope through the umbilicus to locate the testicle, and through other small opening(s) performs the procedure. The higher the testicle, the less successful the procedure. However, the procedure has a high success rate overall.
Orchiopexy can also be performed to resolve a testicular torsion. If caught early enough and the blood supply can be restored to the testicle, this operation can be performed to prevent further occurrence of torsion. If the blood supply has been interrupted for too long, then an orchiectomy must be performed.
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