Purpose: The management of the nonpalpable testis permits an individualized operative approach. We analyze the results of surgical management of a large series of patients with a nonpalpable testis.
Materials and methods: Between January 1986 and June 1994 we treated 1,866 boys with undescended testes. There were 447 testes (24%) that were not palpable at presentation. Intra-operative data on these patients were collected for age at presentation, bilateral testes position, testicular size, associated inguinal anomalies (vas, epididymis and processus vaginalis) and surgical approach. For intra-abdominal testes postoperative results of 2 surgical techniques, the Fowler-Stephens procedure and Koop orchiopexy (retroperitoneal mobilization of spermatic vessels and vas) were compared in 76 patients with at least 18 months of followup.
Results: Average patient age at presentation was 34 months with 63% presenting before age 48 months. Of the impalpable testes 58% were on the left side, 35% were on the right side and 7% were bilateral. At operation 181 testes (41%) were atrophic or absent, 91 (20%) were intra-abdominal with 14 (3.1%) bilateral, 136 (30%) were in the inguinal canal and 39 (9%) were in other locations, including 22 at the pubic tubercle, 2 in the upper scrotum, 13 in the superficial inguinal pouch and 2 in the perineum. Of the intra-abdominal group associated extratesticular malformations were identified in 36 cases (39%). Attachment of the vas deferens to the testis was abnormal in 23 of 64 cases (36%), including 10 that were completely detached and 13 with head or tail attachment only. Of the 91 evaluable cases in the intra-abdominal group 38 (42%) had been treated with the Fowler-Stephens repair (5 in 2 stages), 33 (36%) with inguinal orchiopexy and intraperitoneal dissection without dividing the spermatic vessels, 5 with 2-stage procedures and vessel preservation and 14 (15%) with orchiectomy. One testis was left in situ. The inguinal approach with intraperitoneal extension was successful in defining the testis location or blind-ending vas and vessels in 100% of the cases. A single operation to perform orchiopexy was successful in 92% of the cases. Overall, results were considered excellent or acceptable in 32 of 33 cases (97%) after Koop orchiopexy and 28 of 38 (74%) after the Fowler-Stephens orchiopexy.
Conclusions: Nonpalpable testes accounted for 24% of the patients presenting with undescended testes. At surgical exploration 39% of impalpable testes were distal to the external inguinal ring, 41% were atrophic or absent and 20% were intra-abdominal. All cases were treated through a standard inguinal incision. These data provide evidence that the inguinal approach to orchiopexy with transperitoneal mobilization of the vas and vessels without transection is highly successful for the intra-abdominal cryptorchid testis and, to date, is the preferred technique for the management of the intra-abdominal undescended testis.