Hypospadias is a male birth defect in which the opening of the tube that carries urine from the body (urethra) develops abnormally, usually on the underside of the penis. The opening can occur anywhere from just below the end of the penis to the scrotum.
In most cases, the cause of this birth defect is not fully understood. Treatment with hormones such as progesterone during pregnancy may increase the risk of hypospadias. Certain hormonal fluctuations, such as failure of the fetal testes to produce enough testosterone or the failure of the body to respond to testosterone, increase the risk of hypospadias and other genetic problems.
Mild hypospadias usually does not cause symptoms, especially in newborns and young children. If it's more severe, a male may have problems such as spraying urine, having difficulty directing the urine stream, and having erections that are not straight. In some cases, this defect may make it impossible to urinate while standing.
Boys with hypospadias are also more likely to have an undescended testicle.
Hypospadias is usually diagnosed during the physical examination of a newborn. A test that may be useful if severe hypospadias is suspected is an excretory urogram. This test uses X-rays to provide pictures of the urinary tract. It may be used to check for other congenital abnormalities of the kidneys or the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters).
Hypospadias is sometimes treated with surgery to correct the placement of the urethral opening, usually during the first year of life. There are several different types of surgery. These may include repositioning of the urethra, correcting the placement of the urethral opening in the head of the penis, and reconstructing the skin of the area around the urethral opening. The foreskin may be needed for surgical repair. So a baby with hypospadias should not be circumcised.
Complications are more likely to occur in older children and adults. They can include bleeding, infection, narrowing of the urethra (stricture), and curvature of the penis.
Most males are able to urinate successfully from a standing position after surgical treatment of this condition.
Other Works Consulted
McAninch JW (2008). Disorders of the penis and male urethra. In EA Tanagho, JW McAninch, eds., Smith's General Urology, 17th ed., pp. 625–637. New York: McGraw-Hill Medical.
Snodgrass WT (2012). Hypospadias. In AJ Wein et al., eds., Campbell-Walsh Urology, 10th ed., vol. 4, pp. 3503–3536. Philadelphia: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - PediatricsAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerPeter Anderson, MD, FRCS(C) - Pediatric Urology
Current as ofAugust 12, 2016
Current as of: August 12, 2016
John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
& Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Peter Anderson, MD, FRCS(C) - Pediatric Urology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2017 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.