The operation is generally performed on babies because the problem stems from the time before a boy is born.
Sometimes it is best to wait for a few months until the child is bigger, when the testicle can be easier to free and the anaesthetic easier to administer. However, it is a very necessary operation: the testicle will not descend by itself, and can be damaged by being in the wrong place – plus there could be a problem with your child fathering children in the future.
Orchidopexy is occasionally required for older boys, teens and adult men who have undescended testicles not corrected soon after birth. Adult men and teens that have gone through puberty generally have their testicles removed because of the increased risk of testicular cancer.
The operation is usually carried out using a type of keyhole surgery known as a laparoscopy. Laparascopic surgery results in less pain and a faster recovery time than open surgery.
A small cut is made in the groin on the side of the undescended testicle and small surgical instruments are passed through the incision to free the testicle from the surrounding tissue. Its artery, vein and connecting tubes are gently stretched as much as possible to make them long enough to allow the testicle to reach the scrotum comfortably when it’s pulled down into it. Sometimes a small cut will be needed in the scrotum as well so that he testicle can be stitched in its proper place. The operation takes about 20 minutes a side.
An orchidopexy is carried out under a general anaesthetic, usually as a day case if the testicles are located just above the scrotum.
Usually only one operation is needed, but in cases where the testicles are located higher in the abdomen the testicle may not come down far enough at the first attempt, so the boy may need two separate operations several months apart.
Usually you can take your child home on the day after the operation, and by the end of a week the wound should be virtually pain-free.
The wounds in the groin and scrotum are usually held together with dissolvable stitches that should melt away after 7 to 10 days. It is rare for the stitches to need taking out.
Schoolboys can return to lessons after about 10 days, and start any sport after four to six weeks. For at least 2 weeks after surgery, boys should avoid rough play, bike riding, and other activities where there is a risk of an injury to the genitals.
Orchidopexy is considered a safe and reliable procedure that has relatively few risks. Success rates vary according to where the testicle is located before the surgery, but overall the operation works well in about 80-92% of the males who require it.