What is a circumcision?

Many male children undergo a procedure known as circumcision shortly after birth. This surgery involves the removal of the foreskin covering the tip of the penis. The surgery isn’t necessary, but it is common in the United States and other parts of the world for religious, social or medical reasons.  Occasionally, an older boy who was not circumcised at birth will need to have the procedure for medical reasons.

What happens during the procedure?

The penis is cleaned with a prep solution to prevent infection.  In most cases, a nerve block is used at the base of the penis to numb the area with anesthetic. There are several common techniques, but in all of them, the foreskin is removed with surgical tools. Ointment and gauze is placed on the penis while it heals.  In the older boy, a general anesthesia is used for comfort.

Is any special preparation needed?

No special preparation is needed for this procedure.

What are the risk factors?

Infection, bleeding, dense scarring and injury to the penis are potential risks of circumcision, although complications are exceedingly rare.

What is recovery like?

The baby usually begins feeding immediately after the circumcision. Antibiotic ointment is applied immediately and often, and regular bathing usually resumes the next day. Rarely is any pain medication stronger than acetaminophen (Tylenol) required.

Reviewed by: Cathy Anne Burnweit, MD

This page was last updated on: January 18, 2022 07:03 PM