Semin Pediatr Surg. 2010 Aug;19(3):215-24. doi: 10.1053/j.sempedsurg.2010.04.001.


Cryptorchidism is a very common anomaly of the male genitalia, affecting 2%-4% of male infants and is more common in premature infants. There are two separate stages of testicular descent. The first stage occurs at 8-15 weeks' gestation in the human fetus and is characterized by enlargement of the genito-inguinal ligament, or gubernaculum, and regression of the cranial suspensory ligament. The testis remains close to the future inguinal region as the fetal abdomen grows. Leydig cells in the testis produce insulin-like hormone 3, which stimulates the caudal gubernaculum to grow and become thicker. Mullerian inhibiting substance may have a role in the first phase of descent by stimulating the swelling reaction in the gubernaculum. The second phase of testicular descent requires migration of the gubernaculum and testis from the inguinal region to the scrotum, between 25 and 35 weeks' gestation. The genitofemoral nerve releases calcitonin gene-related peptide, a neurotransmitter that provides a chemotactic gradient to guide migration. The exact cause of cyrptorchidism remains elusive. Information is mainly derived from animal studies (especially in rodents), which may not extrapolate to the human setting. These findings, however, do have some similarities among mammalian species. The current recommended timing for orchidopexy is between 6 and 12 months of life in an effort to preserve the spermatogonia--the stem cells for subsequent spermatogenesis. Despite surgical treatment by orchidopexy, the long-term outcome still remains problematic and controversial. Impaired fertility (33% in unilateral cases and 66% in bilateral undescended testes) and a cancer risk 5-10 times greater than normal is observed over time. Further research into the cause and management of undescended testes is necessary.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cryptorchidism / embryology*
  • Cryptorchidism / epidemiology
  • Cryptorchidism / surgery*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Orchiopexy / methods
  • Risk Assessment
  • Testicular Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Testis / abnormalities
  • Testis / embryology*
  • Treatment Outcome