What's involved in a circumcision operation?

Find out why you might need circumcision surgery and what happens during the operation.

Circumcision surgery is an operation to remove the foreskin, which is the retractable fold of skin covering the end of the penis. It's a continuation of the skin that covers the whole penis.

A circumcision operation is a quick and straightforward procedure and people usually recover from it very easily. Are you considering circumcision surgery for you or your child? Here are the facts on what’s involved in a circumcision.

Why have a circumcision

Circumcision surgery is carried out across the world for various cultural or religious reasons. However, in the UK a healthcare professional will usually only recommend a circumcision operation in certain specific cases. The medical conditions which might require you or your child to be circumcised include:  

  • Balantis xerotica obliterans (BXO), which is a skin condition affecting the penis. If you or your child suffers with recurring BXO, this can cause the foreskin to become painfully tight.
  • Phimosis, which is where the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back over the penis. This can be painful when the penis is erect and can also make it difficult or painful to urinate.
  • Paraphimosis, which is where the foreskin can’t return to its normal position after being pulled back. In severe cases, this condition needs urgent treatment to avoid restricting blood flow to the penis.
Cancer of the penis, which is a very rare form of cancer that manifests as a growth or ulcer on the tip of the penis or under the foreskin1.

What happens during a circumcision?

A circumcision operation is a straightforward procedure which takes place in hospital. You will be admitted to hospital on the day of your operation and you will usually be able to leave again the same day. You will meet your surgeon and anaesthetist beforehand and have the chance to ask any questions or discuss any concerns you have about the circumcision surgery1.

It is performed under general anaesthetic, which means you won’t be able to eat or drink anything for about six hours before the operation. It usually takes around half an hour. During the circumcision surgery, your foreskin is removed and the two edges of the skin stitched together using dissolvable stitches. The surgeon will also seal off any small blood vessels in the area1.

Recovering from a circumcision

After you come round from the general anaesthetic, our medical team will be on hand to take care of you and assess your condition. You should then be able to leave the hospital on the same day as your operation. The team will give you plenty of advice and information about recovering from your circumcision operation1.

Your penis will probably look red and swollen for the first week after the surgery – this is normal. You will be given painkillers to ease any pain or discomfort. It usually takes around 10 days for the penis to fully recover, and you’ll be advised on how much time to take off work – it’s usually around a week1.

It’s a good idea to wear loose-fitting underwear and clothing while you recover. You should rest to begin with, but doing some light regular exercise once you feel well enough will help you to get back to normal as quickly as possible. It’s best to avoid having sex for at least a month after a circumcision operation1.

Potential complications

As with any surgical procedure, a circumcision operation carries some risks. Bleeding and infection are the two most common complications and you have between a 1 in 10 and 1 in 50 chance of experiencing one of these.

Other possible complications of circumcision include:

  • Reduced sensation in the head of the penis, particularly during sex
  • Damage to or narrowing of the urethra
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Removal of too much or too little of the foreskin1.

You should consider all the options before make the decision to have circumcision surgery. There are other treatment options available for many of the medical conditions which affect the head of the penis. Phimosis can sometimes be treated effectively using topical steroid cream and paraphimosis can be relieved with a less invasive operation which makes a small slit in the foreskin1.

Questions about circumcision?

To find out more about circumcision and to speak to a healthcare professional about whether it’s the right course of action for you.

To find out more call us on 0808 101 0337 

or make an online enquiry.



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