Circumcision: The Surgical Procedure

  • Medical Author:
    John Mersch, MD, FAAP

    Dr. Mersch received his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of California, San Diego, and prior to entering the University Of Southern California School Of Medicine, was a graduate student (attaining PhD candidate status) in Experimental Pathology at USC. He attended internship and residency at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Circumcision facts

  • Newborn circumcision is a generally safe procedure if it is done under proper circumstances.
  • Circumcision should be done by a trained, experienced practitioner.
  • Circumcision should not be done if an infant is sick or in unstable health.
  • A premature infant should not have circumcision until the baby meets the criteria to be discharged from the hospital.
  • Infants with genital anomalies (including hypospadias) should not be circumcised.
  • Babies with a family history of bleeding should not be circumcised until tests are done to make sure the child does not have a bleeding problem.
  • Local analgesia should be given to reduce the pain associated with the procedure.
  • Care of the infant after circumcision is simple and generally well tolerated.

What is a circumcision?

A circumcision is a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin (the loose tissue) covering the glans (rounded tip) of the penis. Circumcision may be performed for religious or cultural reasons, or for health reasons. Newborn circumcision is thought to diminish the risk for cancer of the penis and lower the risk for cancer of the cervix in sexual partners. It is also believed to decrease the risk of urinary tract infections in infants and lower the risk of certain sexually transmitted diseases, especially HIV.

Is a circumcision safe?

Circumcision is generally a safe surgical procedure if the following conditions are met:

  • The circumcision is performed carefully, using strict aseptic (sterile) technique.
  • The circumcision is performed by a trained, experienced practitioner.
  • The circumcision is performed only on a healthy, stable infant.
  • There is no medical reason not to have circumcision performed (see below).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/9/2016

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