Variability in penile appearance and penile findings: a prospective study

Br J Urol. 1997 Nov;80(5):776-82. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-410x.1997.00467.x.


Objective: To document prospectively variation in penile morphology and clinical findings in children.

Patients and methods: The study comprised a consecutive sample of 468 boys whose consultation with a physician included a genital examination in a primary-care paediatric practice in rural northern Wisconsin.

Results: Circumcised boys under 3 years of age were significantly more likely to have a partially or completely covered glans, a reddened meatus, balanitis, or trapped epithelial debris, and less likely to have a fully exposed glans than were circumcised boys of 3 years or older. Among the 238 boys under 3 years, those circumcised were significantly more likely to have non-cosmetic problems, including coronal adhesions, trapped epithelial debris, a reddened meatus, preputial stenosis (phimosis) and balanitis, than were boys with a foreskin. Findings in the circumcised group under 3 years included: fully exposed glans (n = 78, 35.6%), partially covered glans (n = 67, 30.6%), adhesions (25.6%), completely covered glans (20.1%), entrapped desquamated epithelial debris (24.7%), reddened meatus (19.1%), balanitis (15.5%), and preputial stenosis (0.9%). Only two genital examinations in boys with foreskins revealed pertinent findings. Coronal adhesions develop in circumcised boys at 2-6 months of age and usually resolve by 24 months. The degree of skin covering the glans after neonatal circumcision peaks at 6 months of age.

Conclusions: There are significant variations of appearance in circumcised boys; clinical findings are much more common in these boys than previously reported in retrospective studies. The circumcised penis requires more care than the intact penis during the first 3 years of life. Parents should be instructed to retract and clean any skin covering the glans in circumcised boys, to prevent adhesions forming and debris from accumulating. Penile inflammation (balanitis) may be more common in circumcised boys; preputial stenosis (phimosis) affects circumcised and intact boys with equal frequency. The revision of circumcision for purely cosmetic reasons should be discouraged on both medical and ethical grounds.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Circumcision, Male / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Penile Diseases / pathology
  • Penis / anatomy & histology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tissue Adhesions
  • Wisconsin