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Difference Between Undescended Testis and Ectopic Testis

What is undescended testis and ectopic testis?

A testicle that hasn’t descended into the bag of skin (scrotum) below the penis before birth is called the undescended testis. In ectopic testis, testis is in an aberrant position in which one of the testicles has not developed to go down (descend) into the bag of skin below the penis as normal, but rather has taken a different route and gone down in the abnormal cavity (located between the thoracic cavity and pelvic cavity) until it has settled in the pre-pubic area (associated with the pre-pubis) in the inguinal canal, rather than in the scrotum.


In both conditions, the testis is congenitally abnormally located. 

Undescended Testis  

Undescended testicles, also termed as cryptorchidism, is a condition in which there is failure of either one or both testes and the linked structures to descend (develop to go down) from the retroperitoneal abdomen (the area in the back of the abdomen behind the peritoneum) to the scrotal sac.

Ectopic testis

An ectopia is when an organ, or a part of an organ, is not in the right place in the body. An ectopic testis happens when one of the testicles has not descended (developed to go down) into the scrotum as normal, but alternatively is directed towards another path and has abnormally descended through the abdominal cavity (located between the thoracic cavity and pelvic cavity) until it has settled in the pre-pubic area (relating to the pre-pubis) in the inguinal canal, rather than in the scrotum.

Difference between undescended testis and ectopic testis


Undescended Testis 

In this, the testes are not descended (developed to go down) completely in the scrotum. 

Ectopic testis

In this, testes are located in a different direction from a normal pathway of descending into scrotum, rather taking a different path along the abdominal cavity ending up in an unusual location.


Undescended Testis  

  • Maternal health 
  • Premature birth of a male boy
  • Exposure to chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of endocrine system of the body (environment (air, soil, or water supply), food sources, personal care products) endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)
  • Genetic predispositions, such as polymorphisms (occurrence of two or more clearly different morphs called as alternative phenotypes), in different genes or chromosomal aberrations.

Ectopic testis

  • Congenital endocrine abnormalities during pregnancy.


Undescended Testis  

  • Hormone therapy
  • Surgery – the surgeon makes a small incision (cut) in the groin and locate the testicle.

Ectopic testis

  • laparoscopic surgery to place the testicle in the scrotum
  • orchidopexy.


The points of difference between undescended testis and Ectopic testis been summarized as below:


What is the difference between ectopic testis and undescended testis?

There is a difference between ectopic testes (a rare congenital anomaly) and undescended testis is that in the undescended testis, the testicle/s do not reach the scrotum and have not descended completely while in ectopic testes, the testicles descend through the abdominal cavity and has not descended into the scrotum as normal.

How can you tell the difference between an undescended testis and a retractile testis?

An undescended testicle (cryptorchidism) is not felt in the scrotum at all (basically absent from the scrotum), while a retractile testicle (suprascrotal testis) is in the scrotum (may move back and forth and could be easily manipulated in the scrotum) between but can be pulled back with a muscle contraction.

What is an ectopic testis?

It is a rare congenital anomaly in which the one of the testicles descends through the abdominal cavity (located between the thoracic cavity and pelvic cavity and not descended into the scrotum as normal. 

What is the other name for an undescended testis?

Another name for an undescended testis is cryptorchidism.

Can undescended testicle still produce sperm?

Undescended testicles (cryptorchidism) that are not corrected and placed in their right place and brought into the scrotum cannot produce sperm. Even after carrying out a surgery for correction, the adult male who had cryptorchidism when he was young will have high rates of infertility. 

What is the most common site for undescended testis?

The undescended testis (cryptorchidism) can be found in the belly, the inguinal canal (a passage in the lower anterior belly wall located above the inguinal ligament) or other places. About ten to fifteen percent of all cases involve both testicles.

At what age is undescended testicle surgery?

If the testicle is not properly developed, not normal or dead, the doctor surgeon may recommend that your male child have the surgery of the undescended testicles when he is six months old, or before he is twelve months old. Timely surgery or surgery during this age alleviates the risk of complications later on.

Why should undescended testes not go untreated?

In adult males who have had an undescended testicle (cryptorchidism), reduced sperm counts, poor sperm quality, and infertility are common. The reason is unusual and abnormal growth of the testicle, which may worsen with each passing day if not treated in time.

How long can testes be undescended?

 In most cases, undescended testicle will naturally move to its correct position by the age of 3 or 4 months. If it continues to remain undescended even after 4 months of age after birth, then a surgery to correct it and bring it in the scrotum may be needed. 

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References :

[0]Hutcheson, J. C., SNYDER, H. M., ZuÑIga, Z. V., Zderic, S. A., Schultz, D. J., Canning, D. A., & Huff, D. S. (2000). Ectopic and undescended testes: 2 variants of a single congenital anomaly?. The Journal of urology, 163(3), 961-963.

[1]Niedzielski, J. K., Oszukowska, E., & Słowikowska-Hilczer, J. (2016). Undescended testis–current trends and guidelines: a review of the literature. Archives of medical science, 12(3), 667-677.

[2]Ramareddy, R. S., Alladi, A., & Siddappa, O. S. (2013). Ectopic testis in children: experience with seven cases. Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 48(3), 538-541.

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