KidsMD Health Topics

Hypospadias in Children

  • Amid the joys of welcoming your child into the world, it can be very stressful to learn that he has been born with any kind of abnormality—especially one that may need surgery in the early months of his life. In the case of hypospadias, the opening of your son’s urethra (through which both urine and semen passes) is located under the penis rather than at the tip; you may have concerns about what this means for everything from toilet training to his future life as an adult.

    • Hypospadias is fairly common, affecting about 1 in 200 boys.

    • It’s often readily corrected through outpatient surgery.

    • The outlook for infants who undergo this operation is extremely good: In most instances, they make a full recovery and have a normal-looking, fully functional penis within about six months.

    While some children with very mild forms of this condition may not require surgery, if your son has hypospadias you should seek an evaluation from a pediatric urologic surgeon.

    Note: Hypospadias also occurs in girls, but it’s extremely rare (affecting an estimated one in 500,000 babies) and a vastly different condition. If your daughter is born with hypospadias, your Children’s specialist will be your best source of information and support.

    How Boston Children’s Hospital approaches hypospadias

    At Children’s, we have a dozen surgeons with extensive experience caring for children with this condition: Our team sees some 250 to 300 children with hypospadias a year.

    Beyond using the most-up-to-date technology to treat children with hypospadias, our Department of Urology is also looking to the future. Our physicians and researchers are leading a number of studies and trials that hold great promise in the detection and treatment of this condition. Their projects include:

    • conducting ongoing research into the genetics of hypospadias, to understand what causes it and help identify it at the earliest possible stage

    • developing techniques that allow surgeons to do more kinds of hypospadias operations in a single repair session, rather than two

    • working to reduce the incidence of fistulas, a complication sometimes seen after hypospadias surgery in which a small hole opens up in the newly formed urethra

    • developing expertise in using buccal mucosa—tissue from the inside of the cheek—for surgical grafts when no local tissue (that is, foreskin) is available

    Reviewed by Alan Retik, MD
    © Children’s Hospital Boston, 2010

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