Undescended Testes

What is an undescended testicle?

Undescended testicles, also known as cryptorchidism, is a fairly common and normally painless congenital condition in which one or both of a baby's testicles (testes) have not moved into the proper position. One to 2 percent of male infants are affected. 

Before a baby boy is born, the testicles form in the child’s abdomen. During the third trimester, the testicles travel from the abdomen, down the groin and into the scrotum (the sack of skin beneath the penis). An undescended testicle doesn’t complete the descent process. The testicle may be located anywhere from the abdomen to the groin and may affect one or both testicles. 

Premature babies are affected by undescended testicles at a higher rate. The more premature your baby is, the higher the chance of having an undescended testicle.

In some cases — about 20 percent of affected boys — an undescended testicle will descend (or “drop”) on its own within the child’s first six months of life. Those that don’t will require surgery.

Parents of baby boys who’ve been diagnosed with undescended testicles often worry, “Will my son be able to have children of his own?” Fortunately, for boys with one undescended testicle, the answer is, “yes” in most cases.

How we care for undescended testicles

Some undescended testicles will eventually move into their proper position without any sort of treatment within the first six months of a baby’s life; those that do not will need to be moved surgically. 

Boston Children's Hospital was one of the nation’s first hospital to use laparoscopy — a minimally invasive surgical procedure that involves looking into the abdomen through tiny incisions and utilizing miniaturized, highly sensitive operating tools, cameras and telescopes. Today, we perform more pediatric laparoscopic procedures than any other center in New England.

Our physicians also use laparoscopy to move intra-abdominal testicles into the scrotum. This allows for the optimal positioning of the testicles in the scrotum. Most importantly, our clinicians are well practiced in both laparoscopy and the treatment of undescended testicles in general. We treat three to four kids with the condition each week.