What is Circumcision?

The Circumcision Procedure

  Circumcision is the surgical removal of the part skin that covers the tip of the penis (glans) of every newborn human male. This part of the penile anatomy is called the foreskin or prepuce (for more medical terms relating to circumcision, see here). Amongst Jews and Muslims circumcision is preformed for religious reasons. Most parents in the United States choose circumcision for their infant sons for nonmedical reasons [1].

  Circumcision is a minor surgical procedure that is normally performed within a few days after birth by the baby´s obstetrician or pediatrician. Due to the changes in policies regarding the length of hospital stay of the mother and infant after birth (which has been cut back in most cases to one day only due to the huge financial costs involved), many infants are circumcised in out-patient clinics. The average cost of the procedure is around $200-$300, which is very small compared to the costs involved in the whole birth process (which usually amounts to several thousand dollars).

  Even though the majority of circumcisions in North America are performed on newborns, it is also often performed on older boys (and even adults) in order to rectify penile problems like phimosis, or to treat infections. In newborn babies, the procedure takes only a few minutes, and a local anesthesia, which numbs the penis, is used. In adolescents and adults, general anesthesia (which puts the patient to sleep) is used. This is also applies to babies older than a few months. Parents considering circumcision should therefore bear this in mind, since general anesthesia (and sometimes even a brief hospitalization period) will make the operation much more expensive.


1. J.D. Tiemstra, Factors affecting the circumcision decision, J Am Board Fam Pract 1999; 12(1): 16-20.

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