Complications rare with baby circumcisions, rise with age
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[May 13, 2014]
By Andrew M. Seaman
(Reuters Health) ó
There are few reported complications after
boys are circumcised during their first year of life, but the risk
rises considerably if the procedure is performed later in childhood,
according to a new analysis published on Monday.
Previous research found wide variations in the rates
of complications following male circumcisions. Those studies were
often small and based on patients from a single hospital.
For the new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers
used data from U.S. insurance claims for babies younger than one
year old, children between ages one year and nine years and older
children 10 years and older. The findings do not include children
who underwent ritual circumcisions in a non-medical setting.
Overall, the researchers had data on more than 1.4 million
circumcised males. The vast majority were newborns.
"This is what we found about the risks of circumcision," said
Charbel El Bcheraoui, the study's lead author from the University of
Washington in Seattle. "Itís low overall, but it increases with age
About 0.4 percent of boys experienced circumcision complications
when the procedure was performed within the first year of life. The
risk increased about 20-fold among boys between one year and nine
years of age. It was 10-fold higher among males 10 years old and
older, compared with infants.
"What we assume is it's probably because between one and 10 years of
age is the age when caring after procedure is the most complicated,"
Circumcision, or removing the foreskin from the penis, is a ritual
obligation for infant Jewish boys and is also a common rite among
Muslims, who account for the largest share of circumcised men
The wider U.S. population adopted the practice due to potential
health benefits, such as reducing the risk of urinary tract
infections in infants and cutting the risk of sexually transmitted
disease later in life, including HIV.
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But the practice has been the focus of heated debate, including
efforts to ban it in San Francisco and Germany. The rate of
circumcisions performed on newborns in U.S. hospitals has dropped
over the last three decades. [ID:nL2N0GM11X]
The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its recommendations in
2012 to say the benefits of male circumcision justify families
having access to the procedure if they choose.
According to the JAMA Pediatrics study, about 0.5 percent of the
procedures ended with some type of adverse event regardless of age,
but the rates for specific complications varied.
Damage to the urethra occurred in about 0.8 per 1 million
circumcisions. Leaving behind too much foreskin occurred in about
702 per 1 million circumcisions.
The researchers note that some complications might not have been
picked up because they were reviewing claims data on problems that
typically occurred within the first month following the
(Reporting by Andrew M. Seaman. Editing by Michele Gershberg and
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