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The management of the nonpalpable testis permits an individualized operative approach. We analyze the results of surgical management of a large series of patients with a nonpalpable testis.

Materials and Methods

Between January 1986 and June 1994 we treated 1,866 boys with undescended testes. There were 447 testes (24%) that were not palpable at presentation. Intraoperative data on these patients were collected for age at presentation, bilateral testes position, testicular size, associated inguinal anomalies (vas, epididymis and processus vaginalis) and surgical approach. For intra-abdominal testes postoperative results of 2 surgical techniques, the Fowler-Stephens procedure and Koop orchiopexy (retroperitoneal mobilization of spermatic vessels and vas) were compared in 76 patients with at least 18 months of followup.


Average patient age at presentation was 34 months with 63% presenting before age 48 months. Of the impalpable testes 58% were on the left side, 35% were on the right side and 7% were bilateral. At operation 181 testes (41%) were atrophic or absent, 91 (20%) were intraabdominal with 14 (3.1%) bilateral, 136 (30%) were in the inguinal canal and 39 (9%) were in other locations, including 22 at the pubic tubercle, 2 in the upper scrotum, 13 in the superficial inguinal pouch and 2 in the perineum. Of the intra-abdominal group associated extratesticular malformations were identified in 36 cases (39%). Attachment of the vas deferens to the testis was abnormal in 23 of 64 cases (36%), including 10 that were completely detached and 13 with head or tail attachment only.


Nonpalpable testes accounted for 24% of the patients presenting with undescended testes. At surgical exploration 39% of impalpable testes were distal to the external inguinal ring, 41% were atrophic or absent and 20% were intra-abdominal. All cases were treated through a standard inguinal incision. These data provide evidence that the inguinal approach to orchiopexy with transperitoneal mobilization of the vas and vessels without transection is highly successful for the intra-abdominal cryptorchid testis and, to date, is the preferred technique for the management of the intra-abdominal undescended testis.

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