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What is circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin tissue from the penis. Today, many parents have their sons circumcised for religious or other reasons such as abnormalities which would not improve as they grow older.

What would happen if nothing were done?

For a child experiencing problems, those problems would persist and in some cases get worse. If the foreskin becomes too tight and scarred it can lead to difficulty passing urine (peeing).

What does the operation involve?

With your child asleep under general anaesthetic, the skin will be removed exposing the head of the penis completely. The skin is then rejoined under the head of the penis with dissolving (usually buried) stitches.

What will happen afterwards?

The penis often swells and bruises a little. A scab will form where the skin has been rejoined.

There should be no problem passing urine (peeing) afterwards.

Nappies can be used as normal but older boys may prefer loose clothing until the area is less sore.

During the operation a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area and this usually lasts for 4 to 6 hours after surgery. Although the area remains sore for some days regular, paracetamol (or Calpol) is enough for most children.

What complications can occur?

Some complications include:

  • Bleeding from the site of operation. This usually stops but sometimes will need another operation.
  • Infection is not common but requires treatment with antibiotics.
  • Difficulty passing urine (peeing) after the operation, due to narrowing of the hole. It is unusual but is more common when there is scarring on the foreskin called balanitis xerotica obliterans (BXO). Some cream would prescribed after the operation to reduce the inflammation.
  • Rarely, too much or too little skin can be removed.

Will my son have a medical check up after surgery?

After a straightforward circumcision, a follow-up check is often not needed. However all boys with suspected BXO will usually be seen a few weeks after surgery in the outpatients department.

Signing the consent form

If you have decided to circumcise your child, before the operation you will be asked to sign a consent form. It is very important that you read this form carefully and understand what you are signing.

This resource is designed to help answer some of the commonly asked questions about the operation, but if there are any points which are not clear, or if there are any other questions arising from the form, you must ask the doctor before you sign it.

The form may include medical terms and jargon, so please ask your doctor to explain exactly what everything means before you sign it. You can also ask for any treatment you would not wish to be performed.

You should not sign the consent form until you are entirely happy with it.

Children signing the consent form

We are very keen to involve your child in their operation as fully as possible and that they understand (as far as they can) what is going to happen to them. As part of this we encourage children to sign the consent form in addition to the parents.

This is particularly important for older children.

However, your child does not have to sign the form if they do not want to.

Is something missing from this resource that you think should be included? Please let us know

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Please note this is a generic information sheet relating to care at Sheffield Children’s. The details in this resource may not necessarily reflect treatment at other hospitals. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professionals’ instructions. If this resource relates to medicines, please read it alongside the medicine manufacturer’s patient information leaflet. If you have specific questions about how this resource relates to your child, please ask your doctor.

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