Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin of the penis. The foreskin is a piece of skin that covers the tip of the penis.
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Reasons for Procedure
Circumcision may be done for family or religious reasons. It is usually done during the first few days of life. It may also be done on older boys to treat medical problems, such as foreskin that is too tight or cannot be pulled back.
Circumcision may also help reduce the risk of:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Change in the way the penis looks
- Foreskin does not heal properly
- Damage to the tip of the penis
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies your child may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that your child takes and whether they need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
The doctor may give:
- Local anesthesia—the penis will be numbed
- General anesthesia—the child will be asleep
Description of Procedure
The foreskin will be pulled away from the penis. The foreskin may have some areas attached to the head of the penis. These attachments will be cut. The excess foreskin will then be cut away. If needed, stitches may be placed to stop bleeding.
Petroleum jelly or an antibiotic ointment will be smeared on the penis. A bandage may be applied.
How Long Will It Take?
Less than 1 hour
Will It Hurt?
Swelling and bruising are common in the first 2 days. Medicine and home care help
Right after the procedure, the staff may give your child pain medicine.
During your child's stay, the hospital staff will take steps to reduce the chance of infection such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your child's incisions covered
There are also steps you can take to reduce your child's chances of infection such as:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and healthcare providers to do the same
- Reminding your child's healthcare providers to wear gloves or masks
- Not allowing others to touch your child's incisions
It will take about 7 to 10 days to recover. Physical activity will be limited during this time.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if your child is not getting better or has:
- Signs of infection, such as fever or chills
- Redness or swelling of the penis or incision
- A yellowish discharge from the penis or incision that lasts longer than 3 to 5 days
- Pain that is not controlled by medicine
- Blue or black coloring at the head of the penis
If you think your child has an emergency, call for medical help right away.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Caring for Kids—Canadian Paediatric Society
Caring for your son's penis. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Caring-For-Your-Sons-Penis.aspx. Accessed December 16, 2020.
Circumcision. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/pregnancy-newborns/caring-for-newborns/infant-care/circumcision.html. Accessed December 16, 2020.
Circumcision. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/prenatal/decisions-to-make/Pages/Circumcision.aspx. Accessed December 16, 2020.
Circumcision in infants and children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/procedure/circumcision#GUID-16C4ECD7-0C75-4B92-948D-40ED09317E38. Accessed December 16, 2020.
Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 12/16/2020