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Hypospadias (hypo-spay-dius) is an abnormality of the penis. It affects about one in 150 male babies, and is usually detected at birth.
The urethra is a tube connecting the bladder to the tip of the penis, carrying urine (wee) outside of the body. When hypospadias occurs, the end of this tube does not form properly and the urine can come out in the wrong place.
In most cases, the foreskin is also underdeveloped and an abnormal curvature of the penis can occur. This can affect self-esteem and sexual function in the future.
Unless it is very mild, hypospadias usually requires surgery.
There are different types of hypospadias, depending on the symptoms. Signs that your child has hypospadias include:
While hypospadias is usually detected at birth, in some instances it is not picked up for several years. If you are concerned about your child's penis, see a GP.
Some cases of hypospadias are also associated with undescended testicles (see our fact sheet
The treatment options depend on how severe the hypospadias is. Sometimes your child's urinary tract will need to be investigated to make sure that there are no other problems, especially when the abnormality is more severe.
Unless very mild, hypospadias is usually corrected by surgery to:
The age for correction is from six to 18 months of age, depending on a number of factors. You will need to discuss this with your child's surgeon. More than one operation may be required.
It is not advisable for your child to be circumcised before surgery. The foreskin may need to be used in the operation. If this is the case, the penis can be made to look circumcised after the surgery if you choose.
As with all surgery, there are some risks and potential side effects involved. These are rare, and the benefits of surgery will outweigh the risks. Some complications specific to hypospadias surgery include:
Surgery to correct hypospadias should be only done by an experienced paediatric urologist (a doctor who specialises in urinary-tract systems).
How long your child needs to stay in hospital will depend on:
The hospital staff (doctors, nurses and specialists) will teach you how to look after the catheter at home. Make sure you understand the instructions before you go home. Ask for clarification if you are not sure.
Contact your doctor or treating hospital if:
My son has mild hypospadias. Will he grow out of it?
Hypospadias will not correct itself over time. Mild
hypospadias may need no correction, but other types will require a surgical
After surgery, will my son's penis look normal? Will
intercourse be a problem later in life?
Every effort is made by you child's surgeon to
make the penis look and function normally. Intercourse is usually not affected
in the long term, but each outcome is different. You can discuss this with your
child's surgeon before and after the operation.
Developed by The Royal Children's Hospital Urology and Surgery departments. We acknowledge the input of RCH consumers and carers.
Reviewed May 2018.
Kids Health Info is supported by The Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation. To donate, visit www.rchfoundation.org.au.