Uncircumcision: A Historical Review of Preputial Restoration

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Abstract

Throughout history, demands for restoration of the prepuce after circumcision were most commonly related to the political or religious persecution of the Jewish people. The first evidence for such a procedure is mentioned in the Bible: Under the reign of Antiochus IV (168 BC) Hellenistic ideals, such as public nakedness at athletic games or in public baths, emerged in Judea and forced Jews to stretch their shortened foreskins with a special weight, the Pondus Judaeus, to cover the glans (I. Maccabees 1). Similar efforts are reported in the Talmud during the time of Hadrian (132 AD).

Celsus (25 BC-50 AD) was the first to give a detailed description of two surgical techniques for uncircumcision in his De medicina libri octo. Subsequent works, for example by Galen (131-200 AD) and Paulus Aeginata in the seventh century, only contained a repetition of these methods without presenting any new aspects.

Ambroise Paré gave a new impetus in the sixteenth century, suggesting the insertion of a catheter into the distal urethra to guarantee free passage of urine during postoperative healing. In this past century, Johann Friedrich Dieffenbach was the first to dedicate a whole chapter to the problem of “posthioplastice” in a modern textbook of plastic surgery.

Almost no written documents exist of uncircumcision during the Nazi era; nevertheless, surgical treatment seemed to be widespread as every circumcised man was in danger of being denounced as a Jew. Personal reports of patients and doctors performing surgical restoration of the prepuce are presented.

Nowadays, reports on surgical foreskin restoration are still rare and alternative methods of nonsurgical skinexpansion have become more common. Several organizations were founded in America against routine infant circumcision and give advice to foreskin restoration seekers. (Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 101: 1990, 1998.)

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