Penile Defects, Curved Penis and Related Birth Disorders

Hypospadias and penile anomalies are congenital conditions (present from birth) that affect the look and function of the penis. In a newborn boy with this condition, the hole of the urethra (urinary tube) may be in an unusual location. It might be on the underside of the penis, instead of at the tip, or in other locations, such as within the scrotum (male sac or pouch).

Some boys with hypospadias also have conditions such as undescended testicle, incompletely formed foreskin, or complete foreskin that hides other defects. In some newborns, the penis has a slight downward curve (penile curvature).

Pediatricians usually identify these conditions during a routine physical examination after birth. The doctor may refer your child to a pediatric urology specialist. The pediatric urologists at Penn State Health have advanced expertise in diagnosing and treating these and other urinary tract and related conditions.

Causes of Hypospadias and Other Penile Abnormalities

The cause of hypospadias and other penile anomalies isn’t always known. Some penile conditions have genetic (inherited) causes. Others may be caused by male hormone imbalances or other disorders that interfere with penile development. These disorders can cause organs or tissues to be incompletely or abnormally formed. 

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Symptoms of hypospadias and penile defects are often noticeable at birth, although some problems are not obvious. Symptoms can include defects such as:

  • Incompletely formed foreskin that leaves the tip of baby’s penis exposed
  • Penile defects beneath a fully formed foreskin
  • Penis has a slight downward curve
  • Penis looks like it has a hood
  • Spraying of urine to the side or downward
  • Undescended testicle (testicle hasn’t fully dropped from the abdomen, where it’s formed, into the scrotum)
  • Urethra opening is abnormally placed, such as on the underside or other locations on the penis and – in rare instances – behind the scrotum
  • Urethra opening is abnormally small or large

Diagnosis and Treatment

Hypospadias and related penile birth defects are common. They do not usually indicate additional problems with the urinary system or other organs.

Your child’s pediatrician or health practitioner will evaluate any related symptoms and schedule imaging or other diagnostic testing. Evaluation may include a referral to a pediatric urology specialist at Penn State Health for diagnosis and treatment recommendations. You can also contact us to schedule an evaluation with a Penn State Health pediatric urologist.

The urologist may recommend surgery to correct defects. Depending on the condition and treatment goals, surgery times can range from 90 minutes to three hours. In most instances, procedures are same-day surgeries done under general anesthetic. The child will be in a deep, sleep-like state and won’t feel anything during the procedure.

Doctors sometimes recommend separate procedures for different stages of hypospadias repair. For example, the urologist may straighten the penis in one procedure and create the urinary tube channel in a later surgery.

Treatment goals for hypospadias usually include:

  • Straightening the shaft
  • Making a urinary tube channel
  • Repositioning the urethra opening to the head of the penis
  • Circumcising or reconstructing foreskin, or using it in other penile tissue repair

This surgery is usually done on healthy, full-term baby boys at 6 to 12 months of age. Your doctor will discuss your child’s condition, treatment options and what to expect. However, pediatric urologists can repair hypospadias and penile anomalies in children and adolescents of any age.

Why Choose Penn State Health for Pediatric Urology Care

Our pediatric urology team treats conditions that involve the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys and sex organs (genitalia). We use the latest technology and treatments to help your child. Our physicians and teams offer high-level care across specialties with sensitivity to the unique conditions and concerns of children.

Pediatric Expertise Across Specialties

The pediatric surgeons at Penn State Health have multispecialty training and experience. Doctors are skilled in performing the most intricate and complex procedures in infants, children and adolescents. Areas of expertise include:

  • Dedicated cross-specialty team of caring pediatric experts before, during and after surgery or other treatments and procedures
  • Minimally invasive surgery (sophisticated instruments and surgical procedures with smaller incisions)
  • Neonatal surgery (premature babies and newborns)
  • Pediatric oncology (cancer care)
  • Pediatric surgical innovation (software and device development)
  • Prenatal diagnosis and treatment (for problems with the baby’s development during pregnancy)

Penn State Health Children’s Hospital: Leading the Way

At Penn State Health, children are cared for by teams that are nationally known for pediatric excellence across medical specialties and subspecialties. Penn State Health Children’s Hospital is:

  • Recognized by the American College of Surgeons (ACS) for exceptional surgical care. Our hospital is one of eight in the nation and the only Level 1 Children’s Surgery Center in Pennsylvania as part of the ACS Children’s Surgery Verification Program.
  • Routinely ranked among the best children’s hospitals in the nation because of our focus on patient care, safety and research. U.S. News & World Report has recognized Penn State Children’s Hospital specialties with top rankings.

Our Research and Clinical Trials Drive Better Care

The pediatric specialists at Penn State Health are leaders in clinical science research. We welcome interested volunteers to consider participating in clinical trials. These studies help our scientists:

  • Improve diagnostic techniques
  • Develop better treatments
  • Collaborate with other researchers to advance care

Learn more about Penn State Health clinical trials.

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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