Circumcision (child)

This document will give you information about a circumcision. If you have any questions, you should ask your GP or other relevant health professional.

What is a circumcision?

A circumcision is an operation to remove the foreskin (the skin that covers the sensitive tip of the penis).

Worldwide, circumcisions are most commonly performed for religious or cultural reasons. Circumcisions are usually recommended only for medical reasons.

Are there any alternatives to a circumcision?

If BXO (a condition where the foreskin becomes thickened and white) is suspected, a circumcision is the only dependable way to cure the condition.

A non-retractile foreskin can often be treated with steroid creams.

If your child does not have BXO, a dorsal slit operation may be recommended. This involves widening the opening of the foreskin.

What does the operation involve?

The operation is performed under a general anaesthetic and usually takes about an hour.

During the operation your surgeon will remove the foreskin and seal off any small blood vessels. They will stitch the two edges of skin together (see figure 1).

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • Difficulty passing urine
  • Developing an ulcer at the tip of the penis
  • Narrowing of the opening of the urethra
  • Too much foreskin is removed
  • Not enough foreskin is removed
  • Damage to the urethra
  • Injury to the end of the penis
  • Cosmetic problems
  • Adhesions
  • Developing an epidermal inclusion cyst

How soon will my child recover?

Your child should be able to go home the same day or the day after.

The penis may look sore, swollen and bruised.

It is usual for children to return to school after 7 to 10 days.


A circumcision is an operation to remove the foreskin.


Author: Mr Shailinder Singh DM FRCS (Paed. Surg.), Mr Gregor Knepil FRCS (Ed.) and Mr Jonathan Sutcliffe FRCS

Illustrations: Medical Illustration Copyright © Nucleus Medical Art. All rights reserved.


This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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