Should Surgery for Hypospadias Be Performed Before An Age of Consent?

Adrienne Carmack, Lauren Notini, Brian D. Earp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Hypospadias is a relatively common genital condition in which the urethral opening forms on the underside of the penis, as opposed to at the tip of the glans. Patients with hypospadias are typically referred for surgery during infancy or early childhood. Recent evidence, however, indicates that many individuals with hypospadias do not experience the functional or psychosocial difficulties commonly attributed to the condition, and that surgical intervention for hypospadias carries substantial risk of adverse outcomes. In this article, we review published outcomes data and conduct an in-depth analysis of the typical rationales for hypospadias surgery, taking into consideration both the potential benefits and harms of the procedure, as well as the existence of nonsurgical alternatives. We argue, first, that most childhood surgeries for hypospadias are performed for anticipated future problems concerning function and cosmesis, rather than extant physical and/or psychosocial problems that are adversely affecting the child’s well-being. Second, we contend that the surgery can be safely performed after an age of consent without increasing the absolute risk of surgical complications to an ethically meaningful degree. We conclude, therefore, that surgery for hypospadias should be performed only if requested by the affected individual, under conditions of informed consent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1058
Number of pages12
JournalThe Journal of Sex Research
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes

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