Reasons to Treat
Hypospadias is repaired through a surgical procedure. When the repair is performed, the urethra is extended to the tip of the penis to its normal location. In addition, any bend is straightened. This is important for many reasons. When the opening is too ventral (underside), a male is unable to stand and urinate like other boys. It is harmful to a boy's normal social development to have to sit while he urinates. Additionally, a straight phallus is essential for normal reproductive health and sexual function.
The treatment of hypospadias is always surgical. Initially when the child is born and hypospadias is identified, it is important to delay any thoughts of circumcision until seen by a urologist. This is because the foreskin can provide essential additional skin needed to reconstruct the urethra.
We often repair hypospadias before a child is one year of age. This way, the boy is in diapers and management of dressings are made easier. However, the exact age of repair can vary according to the size of the penis and severity of the defect. We have been able to repair most of the children with a single operation, but on occasion, a second operation may be needed. The operation is performed under general anesthesia with the child completely asleep. Most of the boys will have a small tube exiting the tip of their new meatus. This "stent" will protect the new urethra and allow for adequate healing. Most patients leave the hospital the same day or the following day. However, more complex repairs for the more severe types of hypospadias can require longer hospital stays due to the need for bedrest and immobilization in the immediate post-operative setting.
The exact type of operation employed varies according to the severity of the defect. For the more distal defects that have openings closer to the normal position at the end of the penis, a new tube can be created from the surrounding skin. This creation of a tube is known as a Thiersch-Duplay repair. For more severe defects, the options range. Additional hairless skin is often needed to recreate the urethral tube when longer defects are seen. Here, the subdermal skin of the foreskin can be used. For the most severe defects, we can remove mucosal skin from the inside of the cheek or use subdermal skin from other hairless parts of the body. It is important to use hairless skin as future hair growth in the neourethra can present multiple problems.
The usual risks of surgery are present when we perform hypospadias repairs. Risk of infection is controlled with use of antibiotics with the surgery and in the post-operative setting. Bleeding is well controlled by using a penile tourniquet during the operation. This limits the blood loss to a very minimal amount, while allowing for good visualization of the tissues for the surgeon.
By using good surgical technique we are able to minimize the longer-term complications of the surgery. The most common problems that present are fistula and stricture. A fistula occurs if a hole develops along the pathway of the repair proximal to the tip of the penis. In other words, a hole can develop along the underside of the penis allowing for leakage of urine. Additionally, a stricture is a scar that can form causing a narrowing in the urethra. If either of these complications occur, an additional repair will be needed, usually six months later.