What to expect when recovering from adult circumcision surgery

Adult circumcision refers to surgical removal of the foreskin, that is, the roll of skin covering the head (glans) of the penis. There are several reasons why you may opt to have adult circumcision surgery, such as recurrent infection of your foreskin (balanitis) or discomfort during sex due to a tight foreskin (phimosis). If non-surgical treatments for these conditions haven’t been successful, your doctor may recommend adult circumcision. 

What happens during adult circumcision surgery?

The surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic but can alternatively be performed using a local anaesthetic or spinal block. 

It usually takes around 30 minutes and involves making a circular cut into the foreskin just below the head of your penis. The whole foreskin is then removed, leaving the head of your penis exposed. 

Dissolvable stitches will be used to sew together the remaining edges of skin — these stitches will disappear on their own over the next three weeks. Finally, a loose dressing will be placed around your penis.

Recovering from adult circumcision surgery

Adult circumcision surgery is usually performed as a day case, so you can return home on the same day as your procedure. If you have had a general anaesthetic, you will need someone to accompany you home and stay with you for the first 24 hours. You will likely need to take one week off work. 

You can eat and drink as normal after your surgery, but it is particularly important to stay well hydrated. This will help dilute your urine, which will help with any discomfort you may feel when urinating as your penis heals. You can also take over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, during your recovery to ease any discomfort. 

Days 1–3

You should try to urinate in the first eight hours after your surgery. If you can’t do so, speak to your GP or call your care team. 

Your penis will be swollen and bruised for a few days after your surgery and it can take seven to 10 days for your penis to achieve its final post-surgery appearance. The dressing placed around your penis should fall off after around 24 hours; however, if it doesn’t fall off or becomes soaked with urine, you can gently remove it yourself. 

You can place an ice pack against your groin area during the first 24 hours to help reduce swelling — do not place the ice pack directly against your skin and make sure that for every 20 minutes you place the ice pack against your groin, you then remove it for 20 minutes.

You should keep your penis dry for the first 24–48 hours after your surgery, and should, therefore, avoid taking a bath. You should also wear loose-fitting clothes for the first two to three days to avoid irritating the area.

Weeks 1–2

Avoid any strenuous activity or heavy lifting for the first week after your surgery to avoid putting unnecessary strain on your wound site. 

You will experience increased sensitivity of the head of your penis for around two weeks after surgery. You can ease this sensitivity and help prevent the head of your penis from drying out by applying petroleum jelly. 

Six weeks and onwards

You will have a follow-up appointment with your surgeon six weeks after your surgery. 

You should avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation for the first six weeks after your surgery; however, you can get erections as usual during this time. 

When you get an erection, you may feel some discomfort around the scar tissue. This discomfort will ease over time and the tissue in this area will regain its normal elasticity after around six months. 

Complications after adult circumcision surgery

For every 100 individuals who undergo adult circumcision surgery, around one or two will develop an infection. This may need to be drained and/or treated with a course of antibiotics. 

If you notice signs of infection, contact your care team immediately; signs include a fever, redness, bleeding and persistent pain or throbbing of your penis.  

In around one in 50 cases, there may be excessive bleeding or the need for further surgery to remove more skin from around the head of your penis. 

In less than one in 100 cases, the individual is not satisfied with the final cosmetic appearance of their penis, fluid collects in the penis (oedema) or cardiovascular issues develop. 

Outcomes of adult circumcision surgery

Adult circumcision surgery will prevent you from developing balanitis or phimosis in the future. 

It won’t have any effect on your sex drive (libido) or your ability to ejaculate. 

The exposed head of your penis (glans) will feel sensitive for the first two weeks; however, this will soon settle.

After you have recovered from surgery, you can engage in sex as you did before.

Author biography

Mr Wadhwa is a Consultant Urological Surgeon at Spire Little Aston Hospital and Spire Parkway Hospital, as well as at the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust. He specialises in treating prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancer, enlarged prostates (TURP, GLL, UroLift, Rezum steam), kidney stones, urinary tract infections, overactive bladders, erectile dysfunction, hydroceles and epididymal cysts, and also performs vasectomies. 

We hope you've found this article useful, however, it cannot be a substitute for a consultation with a specialist

If you're concerned about symptoms you're experiencing or require further information on the subject, talk to a GP or see an expert consultant at your local Spire hospital.

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