Hypospadias is a somewhat common birth (congenital) defect in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside, rather than at the end, of the penis.
See also: Epispadias
Hypospadias affects up to 4 in 1,000 newborn boys.
Some cases are passed down through families. In other cases the cause is unknown.
The condition varies in severity. In most cases, the opening of the urethra is located near the tip of the penis on the underside. More severe forms of hypospadias occur when the opening is at the midshaft or base of the penis. Occasionally, the opening is located in or behind the scrotum.
Males with this condition often have a downward curve (chordee) of the penis during an erection. (Erections are common with infant boys.)
Other symptoms include:
A physical examination can diagnose this condition. Imaging tests may be needed to look for other congenital defects.
Infants with hypospadias should not be circumcised. The foreskin should be preserved for use in later surgical repair.
Surgery is usually done before the child starts school. Today, most urologists recommend repair before the child is 18 months old. During the surgery, the penis is straightened and the hypospadias is corrected using tissue grafts from the foreskin. The repair may require multiple surgeries.
Results after surgery are typically good. In some cases, additional surgery is needed to correct fistulas or a return of the abnormal penis curve.
If hypospadias is untreated, a boy may have difficulty with toilet training and problems with sexual intercourse in adulthood. Urethral strictures and fistulas may form throughout the boy's life, requiring surgery.
Typically a child is diagnosed with hypospadias shortly after birth. Call your health care provider if you notice that your son's urethral opening is abnormally located or that his penis becomes curved during erection.