Are Physicians Performing Neonatal Circumcisions Well Trained?


  • J. DeMaria Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Department of Surgery, McMaster University
  • A. Abdulla
  • J. Pemberton Department of Surgery, McMaster University
  • A. Raees Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, McMaster Children’s Hospital
  • L.H. Braga Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, McMaster Children’s Hospital and the Department of Surgery, McMaster University



Introduction: Notwithstanding the recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics on the indications for neonatal circumcision, this procedure is still common in North America and throughout the world. Our purpose is not to argue whether this procedure should be done, but rather to examine who is doing it, their training, how it is performed and how can we prevent unsatisfactory results and complications. The objective is to identify what fields of knowledge require improvement and then design a teaching module to improve the outcomes of neonatal circumcision.

Methods: A 19-question cross-sectional survey, including a visual identification item, was submitted to 87 physicians who perform neonatal circumcisions in Southwestern Ontario, Canada. To improve our response rate, study subjects were contacted in a variety of ways, including mail and fax and telephone. Once the survey was completed, we produced a surgical technique training video on using the Gomco clamp and the Plastibell techiques. A knowledge dissemination workshop was held with survey participants to discuss contraindications and the use of anesthesia and management of complications of neonatal circumcision and to evaluate the surgical technique training video. A 6-month followup questionnaire was completed to determine the impact of the teaching course on participants’ daily practice.

Results: In total, we received 54 responses (62% response rate). From these, 46 (85%) were family doctors and pediatricians, while the remaining 8 (15%) were pediatric general surgeons and urologists. The circumcisions were carried out with the Gomco clamp 35 (63%) and the Plastibell 21 (37%). No respondent admitted to learning the procedure through a structured training course. Of the non-surgeons, 19 (43%) learned to perform a circumcision from a non-surgeon colleague. A little over a third of the participants (17, 31%) were happy to perform a circumcision in a child born with a concealed penis, where circumcision is contraindicated. With respect to the early complications post-circumcision, 8 (100%) surgeons versus 29 (63%) non-surgeons felt comfortable dealing with bleeding (p = 0.046). In total, 7 (88%) surgeons versus 16 (35%) non-surgeons were comfortable dealing with urinary retention (p = 0.01). Also, 8 (100%) surgeons versus 24 (52%) non-surgeons were comfortable dealing with a wound dehiscence (p = 0.02). Moreover, 6 (75%) surgeons and 5 (10%) non-surgeons were comfortable managing meatal stenosis (p < 0.01). Five (63%) surgeons versus 15 (33%) non-surgeons were confident in dealing with a trapped penis post-circumcision (p = 0.24).

Conclusions: Our survey findings indicate that most physicians performing neonatal circumcisions in our community have received informal and unstructured training. This lack of formal instruction may explain the complications and unsatisfactory results witnessed in our pediatric urology practice. Many practitioners are not aware of the contraindications to neonatal circumcision and most non-surgeons perform the procedure without being able to handle common post-surgical complications. Based on our survey findings, we planned and carried out a formal training course to address these issues.


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How to Cite

DeMaria, J., Abdulla, A., Pemberton, J., Raees, A., & Braga, L. (2013). Are Physicians Performing Neonatal Circumcisions Well Trained?. Canadian Urological Association Journal, 7(7-8), 260–4.



Original Research