Circumcision is a surgical procedure to remove the foreskin of the penis (Fig. 1). It is used to treat phimosis, a condition in which the foreskin cannot be pulled back over the head of the penis (glans). Phimosis affects only boys and is normal in infants and toddlers. The foreskin typically separates between ages 2 and 6. In most cases, it will detach naturally on its own.
Circumcision is necessary to treat phimosis that results from scarring from previous injury. It can also treat phimosis that causes frequent infections of the foreskin or the urinary tract. Circumcision may be needed if the foreskin causes problems urinating. If phimosis does not get better with the use of steroid creme, circumcision may be needed. Sometimes parents might prefer that the child be circumcised after age 2 to prevent further problems.
Circumcision is not an option for some patients who have:
- Active problems with heart or lung function or a bleeding disorder
- Foreskin or glans that is actively infected
- Birth defects of the penis
- A penis that urinates through an opening on the underside rather than at the tip (hypospadias)
- A penis that is not visible or is inside the skin (buried penis; foreskin may be needed for a reconstructive procedure)