Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin. The foreskin is a flap of skin that covers the tip of the penis.
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The procedure may be done for cultural or religious reasons. It is often done on babies in the first few days of life.
There may be some health benefits for circumcision. Many health professionals believe these benefits are small. Circumcision may be associated with a decreased risk of:
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
The type of anesthesia may depend on where the circumcision is done. There are 2 common approaches:
The baby will need to be very still during the circumcision. The baby may be carefully restrained on an infant board or someone will hold the baby. The anesthesia will be applied.
Once the area is numb the procedure will begin. The foreskin will be pulled away from the penis. Some parts of the foreskin may still be attached to the penis. The doctor will sweep these attachments away. The extra foreskin will then be cut away. It can be removed with a scalpel or special clamp.
Stitches may be needed. They will be used to sew the remaining bit of foreskin into place. Petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment will be smeared on the penis. A bandage may be applied. A Plastibell device, if used, will be left in place instead of a bandage. The Plastibell will fall off on its own.
About 15–30 minutes
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure.
Swelling and scabbing is normal, but the circumcision site should heal in about 10 days. The Plastibell should fall off on its own within this time frame.
Home care will include:
It is important for you to monitor your baby's recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your baby's doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your baby's doctor:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Kids Health—Nemours Foundation
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Circumcision. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/circumcision. Updated November 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.
American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Circumcision. Circumcision policy statement. Pediatrics.2012;130(3):585-586.
Brady-Fryer B, Wiebe N, Lander JA. Pain relief for neonatal circumcision. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004;18(4):CD004217.
Circumcision. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115571/Circumcision. Updated May 23, 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.
Circumcision. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/Pages/Circumcision.aspx. Updated November 21, 2015. Accessed May 18, 2017.
Circumcision. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/circumcision.html. Updated June 2016. Accessed May 18, 2017.
Leef KH. Evidence-based review of oral sucrose administration to decrease the pain response in newborn infants. Neonatal Network. 2006; 25(4):275-284.
Last reviewed September 2018 by Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 9/30/2013