At around 6 months of age normal boys with normally descended testicles may develop “retractile testicles”. There are muscles covering the blood vessels that lead to and from the testicle and these begin to contract around this age and can lift or hold the testicle higher. This “retraction” may be to protect the testicle from injury until puberty, because at puberty this testicular movement stops.
This normal testicle retraction causes much confusion, especially in older boys who are sometimes thought for the first time to have an undescended testicle during a routine back to school examination.
There are several published studies that find even pediatric surgical specialists are sometimes fooled by retractile testis and recommend surgery thinking the testicle is undescended. Often these boys are thought to have the problem on both sides, whereas true undescended testicles most often are on only 1 side.
At PARC Urology we do not rely only on our physical examination to decide if a testicle is descended or retractile. Most undescended testicles should be found during the newborn examination in the hospital and by the first examination by the pediatrician or family doctor when the boy leaves the hospital. When we cannot feel the testicle in the scrotum in boys older than 6 months we ask about this history, and in questionable cases will obtain these birth records before deciding if surgery is recommended or not.