Surgeries / General Surgeries / Orchiectomy



Orchiectomy

Orchiectomy is the surgical removal of one or both testicles, or testes, in the human male. The removal of both testicles is known as a bilateral orchiectomy, or castration, because the person is no longer able to reproduce. Emasculation is another word that is sometimes used for castration of a male. An orchiectomy is done to treat cancer or, for other reasons, to lower the level of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, in the body. Surgical removal of a testicle is the usual treatment if a tumor is found within the gland itself, but an orchiectomy may also be performed to treat prostate cancer or cancer of the male breast, as testosterone causes these cancers to grow and metastasize (spread to other parts of the body).

An orchiectomy is sometimes done to prevent cancer when an undescended testicle is found in a patient who is beyond the age of puberty. A bilateral orchiectomy is commonly performed as one stage in male-to-female (MTF) gender reassignment surgery. It is done both to lower the levels of male hormones in the patient's body and to prepare the genital area for later operations to construct a vagina and external female genitalia.

Some European countries and four states in the United States (California, Florida, Montana, and Texas) allow convicted sex offenders to request surgical castration to help control their sexual urges. This option is considered controversial in some parts of the legal system. A small number of men with very strong sex drives request an orchiectomy for religious reasons; it should be noted, however, that official Roman Catholic teaching is opposed to the performance of castration for spiritual purity.

 


Orchiectomy is the surgical removal of one or both testicles, or testes, in the human male. The removal of both testicles is known as a bilateral orchiectomy, or castration, because the person is no longer able to reproduce. Emasculation is another word that is sometimes used for castration of a male. An orchiectomy is done to treat cancer or, for other reasons, to lower the level of testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, in the body. Surgical removal of a testicle is the usual treatment if a tumor is found within the gland itself, but an orchiectomy may also be performed to treat prostate cancer or cancer of the male breast, as testosterone causes these cancers to grow and metastasize (spread to other parts of the body). An orchiectomy is sometimes done to prevent cancer when an undescended testicle is found in a patient who is beyond the age of puberty. A bilateral orchiectomy is commonly performed as one stage in male-to-female (MTF) gender reassignment surgery. It is done both to lower the levels of male hormones in the patient's body and to prepare the genital area for later operations to construct a vagina and external female genitalia.

Some European countries and four states in the United States (California, Florida, Montana, and Texas) allow convicted sex offenders to request surgical castration to help control their sexual urges. This option is considered controversial in some parts of the legal system. A small number of men with very strong sex drives request an orchiectomy for religious reasons; it should be noted, however, that official Roman Catholic teaching is opposed to the performance of castration for spiritual purity.

Cancers in men vary widely in terms of both the numbers of men affected and the age groups most likely to be involved. Prostate cancer is the single most common malignancy affecting American men over the age of 50; about 220,000 cases are reported each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 31,000 men in the United States die every year from prostate cancer. African-American men are almost 70% more likely to develop prostate cancer than either Caucasian or Asian-American men; the reasons for this difference are not yet known. Other factors that increase a man's risk of developing prostate cancer include a diet high in red meat, fat, and dairy products, and a family history of the disease. Men whose father or brother(s) had prostate cancer are twice as likely as other men to develop the disease themselves. Today, however, there are still no genetic tests available for prostate cancer.

Testicular cancer, on the other hand, frequently occurs in younger men; in fact, it is the most common cancer diagnosed in males between the ages of 15 and 34. The rate of new cases in the United States each year is about 3.7 per 100,000 people. The incidence of testicular cancer has been rising in the developed countries at a rate of about 2% per year since 1970. It is not yet known whether this increase is a simple reflection of improved diagnostic techniques or whether there are other causes. There is some variation among racial and ethnic groups, with men of Scandinavian background having higher than average rates of testicular cancer, and African-American men having a lower than average incidence. Testicular cancer occurs most often in males in one of three age groups: boys 10 years old or younger; adult males between the ages of 20 and 40; and men over 60.
Other risk factors for testicular cancer include:

  • Cryptorchidism, which is a condition in which a boy's testicles do not move down from the abdomen into the scrotum at the usual point in fetal development. It is also called undescended testicle(s). Ordinarily, the testicles descend before the baby is born; however, if the baby is born prematurely, the scrotal sac may be empty at the time of delivery. About 3–4% of full-term male infants are born with undescended testicles. Men with a history of childhood cryptorchidism are three to 14 times more likely to develop testicular cancer.
  • Family history of testicular cancer.
  • A mother who took diethylstilbestrol (DES) during pregnancy. DES is a synthetic hormone that was prescribed for many women between 1938 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. It has since been found to increase the risk of certain types of cancer in the offspring of these women.
  • Occupational and environmental factors. Separate groups of researchers in Germany and New Zealand reported in 2003 that firefighters have an elevated risk of testicular cancer compared to control subjects. The specific environmental trigger is not yet known.

Statistics for orchiectomies in connection with gender reassignment surgery are difficult to establish because most patients who have had this type of surgery prefer to keep it confidential. Persons undergoing the hormonal treatments and periods of real-life experience as members of the other sex that are required prior to genital surgery frequently report social rejection, job discrimination, and other negative consequences of their decision. Because of widespread social disapproval of surgical gender reassignment, researchers do not know the true prevalence of gender identity disorders in the general population. Early estimates were 1:37,000 males and 1:107,000 females. A recent study in the Netherlands, however, maintains that a more accurate estimation is 1:11,900 males and 1:30,400 females. In any case, the number of surgical procedures is lower than the number of patients diagnosed with gender identity disorders.
There are three basic types of orchiectomy: simple, subcapsular, and inguinal (or radical). The first two types are usually done under local or epidural anesthesia, and take about 30 minutes to perform. An inguinal orchiectomy is sometimes done under general anesthesia, and takes between 30 minutes and an hour to complete.

Simple orchiectomy

A simple orchiectomy is performed as part of gender reassignment surgery or as palliative treatment for advanced cancer of the prostate. The patient lies flat on an operating table with the penis taped against the abdomen. After the anesthetic has been given, the surgeon makes an incision in the midpoint of the scrotum and cuts through the underlying tissue. The surgeon removes the testicles and parts of the spermatic cord through the incision. The incision is closed with two layers of sutures and covered with a surgical dressing. If the patient desires, a prosthetic testicle can be inserted before the incision is closed to give the appearance of a normal scrotum from the outside.

Subcapsular orchiectomy

A subcapsular orchiectomy is also performed for treatment of prostate cancer. The operation is similar to a simple orchiectomy, with the exception that the glandular tissue is removed from the lining of each testicle rather than the entire gland being removed. This type of orchiectomy is done primarily to keep the appearance of a normal scrotum.

Inguinal orchiectomy

An inguinal orchiectomy, which is sometimes called a radical orchiectomy, is done when testicular cancer is suspected. It may be either unilateral, involving only one testicle, or bilateral. This procedure is called an inguinal orchiectomy because the surgeon makes the incision, which is about 3 in (7.6 cm) long, in the patient's groin area rather than directly into the scrotum. It is called a radical orchiectomy because the surgeon removes the entire spermatic cord as well as the testicle itself. The reason for this complete removal is that testicular cancers frequently spread from the spermatic cord into the lymph nodes near the kidneys. A long non-absorbable suture is left in the stump of the spermatic cord in case later surgery is necessary.

After the cord and testicle have been removed, the surgeon washes the area with saline solution and closes the various layers of tissues and skin with various types of sutures. The wound is then covered with sterile gauze and bandaged.