Risks Associated With Male Circumcision
Reported complication rates depend on the type of study (e.g., chart review vs. prospective study), setting (medical vs. nonmedical facility), person operating (traditional vs. medical practitioner), patient age (infant vs. adult), and surgical technique or instrument used.
In large studies of infant circumcision in the United States, reported inpatient complication rates are approximately 0.2%1, 40, 41. The most common complications are bleeding and infection, which are usually minor and easily managed1, 40-43.
A recent meta-analysis of 16 prospective studies from diverse settings worldwide that evaluated complications following neonatal, infant, and child male circumcision found that median frequency of severe adverse events was 0% (range, 0%-2%). The median frequency of any complication was 1.5% (range, 0%-16%). Male circumcision by medical providers on children tended to be associated with more complications (median frequency, 6%; range, 2%-14%) than for neonates and infants44.
In the three African trials of adult circumcision, complication rates for adult male circumcision ranged from 2% to 8%. The most commonly reported complications were pain, bleeding, infection, and unsatisfactory appearance. There were no reported deaths or long-term sequelae documented.16, 17, 18, 45, 46
Minimizing pain is an important consideration for male circumcision. Appropriate use of analgesia is considered standard of care for the procedure at all ages and can substantially control pain. One study found that 93.5% of neonates circumcised in the first week of life using analgesia gave no indication of pain on an objective, standardized neonatal pain rating system.47
Effects of Male Circumcision on Penile Sensation and Sexual Function
Well-designed studies of sexual sensation and function in relation to male circumcision are few, and the results present a mixed picture. Taken as a whole, the studies suggest that some decrease in sensitivity of the glans to fine touch can occur following circumcision.48 However, several studies conducted among men after adult circumcision suggest that few men report their sexual functioning is worse after circumcision; most report either improvement or no change.49-52 The three African trials found high levels of satisfaction among the men after circumcision.16, 17, 18, 46