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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Reasons for Procedure
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 from circumcision. It may be linked to a decreased risk of:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Some may be:
- Reaction to drugs used for anesthesia
- The penis does not look as expected
- Loss of feeling
- Damage to the tip of the penis
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The baby's penis will be examined before the procedure.
One of 2 types of anesthesia may be used:
- Cream—A cream may be applied to the penis to numb the area.
- Nerve block—A medicine may be injected near the penis to block the nerve that runs to it. This will make the entire penis numb.
Description of the Procedure
The baby will need to be very still. He may be held down on an infant board or someone will hold the baby. The anesthesia will be applied.
The procedure will begin when the penis is numb. The foreskin will be pulled away from the penis. It will then be cut away 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.
How Long Will It Take?
About 15 to 30 minutes
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure.
Swelling and scabbing is normal. The circumcision site should heal in about 10 days. If used, the Plastibell will fall off in the same time frame.
Call Your Doctor
Call your child's doctor if your child is not recovering as expected or your child has:
- A bloodstain larger than the size of a quarter in his diaper
- The Plastibell device has not fallen off within 10 days
- The penis or the area of the incision is red, swollen, hot to the touch, or is oozing a yellowish discharge
- A fever or appears to be in pain
- Not had a wet diaper within 6 to 8 hours of the procedure
- A penis head that looks blue or black
If you think your child has an emergency, call for medical help 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. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/circumcision. Updated August 8, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020.
Circumcision. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/circumcision. Updated April 22, 2019. Accessed January 13, 2020.
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 March 12, 2013. Accessed January 13, 2020.
Circumcision. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/circumcision.html. Updated June 2016. Accessed January 13, 2020.
WHO guideline on use of devices for adult male circumcision for HIV prevention can be found at WHO 2013 Oct PDF.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 10/16/2020