Foreskin success

Despite a flap over penis reconstruction, an Australian conference concludes that doctors can rebuild them.

Published May 12, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

After much debate, and no doubt the viewing of many slides projected against a screen, an Australian medical conference concluded last week that the male foreskin can be repaired. The flap of skin around the penis can be rebuilt, reconstructed and improved cosmetically, with few complications.

The crux of the conference's debate centered around international medical reports claiming that up to one-third of foreskin reconstructions led to complications. In the experience of Australia's penis surgeons, this was not the case.

Over a two-year period at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital, 23 patients had successful operations, and 22 of them ended up with a handy-dandy retractable foreskin, as the good Lord intended.

If your baby needs a new foreskin, apparently you'd do well to fly the tyke to the land down under. They seem to know what they're up to, foreskin-wise. Foreskin restoration in Australia comes about in a variety of ways. Sometimes a baby boy is born with an incomplete foreskin, which affects one in 300 births. Occasionally a boy is born with the opening to the urethra located on the underside of the penis, preventing a normal erection. And then there's the parents expressing concern over the cosmetic appearance of their little boy's penis. What if you don't want the "circumcised look"?

Melbourne pediatric surgeon Professor Paddy Dewan assured the assembled group of penis doctors that there is a solution. "In situations where a circumcised appearance is considered undesirable, foreskin reconstruction offers an appropriate choice to parents," Professor Dewan said.

Circumcision is still a hot topic of discussion in Australia, with the nation's percentage of foreskin removal hovering somewhere between 25 and 40 percent, and on the decline. Medical arguments in favor of the operation claim that it reduces infection and disease, but pediatric doctor policy on the subject goes back and forth.

Professor Dewan added that parents tend to have very strong views about the procedure, both for and against. "It's a small piece of skin that creates a lot of emotion," he said.

By Jack Boulware

Jack Boulware is a writer in San Francisco and author of "San Francisco Bizarro" and "Sex American Style."

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