Bleeding and oozing is one of the most common problems associated with circumcision (as with any surgical procedure), occurring in close to all circumcisions and is usually easily controlled by gentle direct pressure. Bleeding typically occurs when the skin of the newly exposed glans becomes irritated by the pressure of the diaper and ammonia of the urine or when the scab is pulled off during the removal of the gauze. Excessive bleeding may require stitches.
Infection of the surgical site is another common complication after circumcision, occurring in up to 10% of circumcisions, due to the open wound being exposed to feces and urine in the diaper. Most infections are relatively minor and can be treated by your son’s doctor with oral antibiotics. Sometimes a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection can develop such as meningitis, gangrene or sepsis. Sepsis is more common in young infants and severe sepsis can result in organ failure and possibly death.
Inflammation of the meatus (the opening of the penis) may occur after circumcision and can possibly lead to scarring. This is due to diaper rash and chaffing because in circumcised boys, the meatus is more exposed. Frequent diaper changes may reduce the risk of this complication.
Another risk of circumcision is the formation of a “skin bridge”, which may occur as it is healing. A skin bridge consists of a piece of skin from the shaft of the penis attaching to the glans (or another point along the shaft), forming a bridge of skin that must be surgically corrected. This happens in approximately 1 in every 1,000 circumcision.
Certain anesthesia used during circumcisions may cause complications, including methemoglobinemia. Some types of local anesthesia, particularly prilocaine, lidocaine may cause methemoglobinemia, which is a condition that can be life-threatening.
It is believed that circumcision may lead to decreased sensitivity or the complete loss of sensitivity in the glans of the penis. This may be due to the glans becoming thicker and dryer with the absence (and protection) of the foreskin.
This is the most common long-term complication associated with circumcision and is described as a blockage or narrowing of the urethral opening (the tube that carries urine from the bladder to the tip of the penis) Meatal Stenosis occurs almost exclusively in circumcised boys, often developing as a result of the absence of the foreskin which protects the penis from urine and stool. An open sore (ulcer) around the glans, infection and scarring can lead to meatal stenosis.
There is a risk that the foreskin may be cut too short or too long, the outer skin layers of the penis may be completely removed accidentally (causing the penis to appear to have been removed, called “concealed penis”), portions of the foreskin may not be completely removed or accidental amputation (partial or full) may occur. These errors are uncommon (some extremely rare), but they do occur.
Despite what some people may claim, it is documented that babies are as sensitive to pain as anyone else and possibly more so than adults. Circumcision causes pain (possibly for weeks afterward), even when anesthesia is used, although anesthesia does decrease pain during the procedure. Talk to your son’s doctor about what type of anesthesia might be used, if you are considering circumcision.
Babies Sometimes circumcision may need to be postponed or not performed at all. For premature babies, circumcision needs to be put off, possibly until the baby is ready to go home from the hospital.