Kids Health Info

Undescended testes

  • Pronunciation:
    Cryptorchidism, pronounced kript-ork-id-iz-im
    Orchidopexy, pronounced ork-id-o-peck-see

    Testes (testicles) are male sex glands. They produce sperm and hormones for sexual reproduction. When the testes (one or both) do not move down into the scrotum it is called 'undescended testes'. It is also known as Cryptorchidism. About four boys in every 100 have undescended testes when they are born.

    Undescended testes KHI RCH

    Types of undescended testes

    There are two types of undescended testes: congenital and aquired.

    Congenital - boys who are born with undescended testes.

    • In babies born early (premature babies), the testes may not have dropped down yet (usually happens in the eight month of pregnancy).
    • Some hormone and genetic disorders can cause undescended testes
    • Usually doctors cannot find the cause. 

    Undescended testes congenital-flowchart RCH


    Acquired - boys who develop undescended testes after birth.

    • This can happen between 1-10 years of age.
    • A boy is born with the testes in the normal place (in the scrotum).
    • As the boy grows the cord attached to the testes (spermatic cord), fails to grow at the same rate.  It ends up too short and pulls the testes back up into the groin.

    Undescended testes acquired-flowchart RCH



    No treatment

    • The testes may come down by themselves in the first three months after birth.


    • If the testes do not come down by themselves after six months, an operation called an Orchidopexy is needed.
    • An orchidopexy brings the testis down into its normal location in the scrotum.
    • See the factsheet 'Orchidopexy' for more information.

    If the testes do not come down there is a risk of ongoing health issues. These can include:

    • Trauma such as twisting (torsion).
    • Hernia - loops of bowel coming through the same hole as the testis.
    • Lower fertility - the body temperature in the abdomen is higher than in the scrotum. This can affect sperm production in the testes.
    • Risk of testicular cancer - happens in a relatively low number of boys. The risk is usually less than 1 in 100.
    • Poor self esteem.

    It is important you/your child sees a surgeon during adolescence to discuss issues of adulthood.

    Key points to remember

    • There may be several reasons why the testes do not move down into the scrotum. Usually the cause is unknown.
    • An operation called an Orchidopexy is needed if the testes do not move down by themselves once a baby is six months of age. This is done to reduce ongoing health issues.
    • Your child should also be seen in adolescence to discuss issues of adulthood.

    For more information



    Produced by the Royal Children's Hospital (RCH) Departments of Urology and Surgery. First published Sept 2005. Updated October 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.