What is a circumcision?
A circumcision is a simple operation which involves the removal of the foreskin, a sleeve of skin which covers the delicate end of the penis. This operation is usually performed on a child and often for religious or cultural reasons.
Other reasons for circumcision include:
- A non-retractile foreskin where you are unable to pull back the foreskin despite advice and treatment from your doctor.
- Pain during sex - this is often caused by a tight or non-retractile foreskin
- Persistent infections of the foreskin
- An abnormal urinary tract with persistent urinary infections.
What does a circumcision operation involve?
Circumcision is normally carried out under general anaesthetic and usually takes around 30 minutes. If it is performed on a small baby, local anaesthetic may be used.
During the procedure the narrow sleeve of the foreskin will be trimmed away and remaining skin edges are stitched together, usually with dissolvable stitches that do not need to be removed afterwards.
The operation is a simple one and usually you can take your child home the same or next day.
Circumcision recovery time
After the operation it is likely that some discomfort will be felt as the wound heals and the penis can look sore and bruised. This can be relieved using mild painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and should subside as the area heals.
The wound will be covered with a moist dressing, which can usually be removed the next day. The patient will need around ten days or so to recover before he can return to work or school, and around one month before he can engage in any sports.
What are the alternatives to a circumcision?
Generally, doctors will offer conservative medical management on a patient’s first visit.
The foreskin can sometimes be made supple with the help of mild to potent steroid-based creams. Around 70% of patients would benefit from a trial of a cream. These creams are to be used daily and the effects are monitored. A review after six weeks is usually recommended to see if there have been any beneficial effects.
Alternative medical treatments include frenulumoplasty – releasing a tight frenulum, the elastic band of tissue with connects the foreskin to the body of the penis – trebucioplasty – releasing the tightness of the foreskin – a dorsal slit operation and partial circumcision.
What risks should I know about?
Circumcision is a routinely performed operation and extremely safe. There is a small possibility that too much or not enough foreskin is removed or that some cosmetic problems may occur. There is also a 10 per cent possibility of a narrowing of the opening of the urethra caused by injury during the circumcision or inflammation afterwards which leads to difficulty passing urine. A further operation may be required.