Surgical Procedures: Orchiectomy

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed: April 12, 2024

An orchiectomy is the surgical removal of one or both testicles. The testicles rest below the penis in the scrotum. The testicles are glands that make sperm and testosterone (a hormone).

Orchiectomy may be used as a treatment for:

  • Testicular and/or prostate cancer.
  • Male breast cancer.
  • Cancer prevention in men with an undescended testicle after puberty.
  • Severe trauma or injury to the testicle.
  • Male-to-female gender reassignment surgery.

There are different types of orchiectomy:

  • Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy: The testicle and spermatic cord are removed through an incision (cut) made in the groin. At times, a prosthetic (artificial) implant filled with saline (salt water) can be placed where the testicle was.
  • Simple Orchiectomy: The testicle is removed through the scrotum. A prosthetic testicle can be placed. In both simple and radical orchiectomy, a single testicle can be removed, or both testicles, which is called bilateral orchiectomy.
  • Subcapsular Orchiectomy: During a subcapsular orchiectomy, only the glandular tissue lining the testicles is removed, leaving the testicles in place.

What are the risks associated of an orchiectomy?

As with any surgery, there are risks and possible side effects. These can be:

  • Reaction to anesthesia (anesthesia is the medication you are given to help you sleep through the surgery, to not remember it, and to help with pain.) Reactions can include wheezing, rash, swelling, and low blood pressure. 
  • Bleeding.
  • Infection.
  • Blood clots.
  • Loss of fertility (ability to father a child).
  • Erectile dysfunction (not being able to get or keep an erection).
  • Loss of feeling in the groin and/or genitals.
  • Low libido (sex drive).
  • Hot flashes, mood swings, depression.
  • Loss of muscle mass.
  • Osteoporosis.
  • Breast enlargement (gynecomastia).
  • Weight gain.
  • Fatigue.
  • Change in self-image.

What is recovery like?

After an orchiectomy, you may have to stay in the hospital for a few days depending on the type of procedure you had. You will be taught how to care for your incision before leaving the hospital.

Your medical team will talk with you about the medications you will be taking, including those to prevent blood clots, infection, and constipation, and those for pain control and nausea.

Your provider will tell you what you should and should not do when you go home. You may be told to:

  • Wear a scrotal support and use ice packs as directed.
  • Take pain medication as prescribed.
  • Avoid straining with bowel movements and try to prevent constipation.
  • Use a donut cushion when sitting for comfort.
  • Not lift anything heavy until you are told it is safe to do so by your provider.
  • Avoid sports, jogging, or running until you are told it is safe by your provider. 

Talk to your provider about driving, resuming sexual activity, and going back to work or school.

What will I need at home?

  • Thermometer to check for fever, which can be a sign of infection.
  • Ice packs.
  • Scrotal support, such as a jockstrap.

When should I call my care team?

Call your care team if you have:

  • Fever or chills. Your team will tell you at what temperature you should call them.
  • Groin redness and/or swelling.
  • Swelling in the scrotum.
  • Drainage and/or bleeding at the incision.
  • Trouble urinating.

How can I care for myself?

You may need a family member or friend to help you with your daily tasks until you are feeling better. It may take some time before you can go back to your normal activity.

Take your prescribed medications as directed to prevent pain, infection and/or constipation. Call your team with any new or worsening symptoms.

There are ways to manage constipation after your surgery. You can change your diet, drink more fluids, and take over-the-counter medications. Talk with your care team before taking any medications for constipation. 

Taking deep breaths and resting can help manage pain, keep your lungs healthy after anesthesia, and help with drainage of lymphatic fluid. Try to do deep breathing and relaxation exercises a few times a day in the first week, or when you are extra tense.

  • Example of a relaxation exercise: While sitting, close your eyes and take 5-10 slow deep breaths. Relax your muscles. Slowly roll your head and shoulders.

This article contains general information. Please be sure to talk to your care team about your specific plan and recovery.

Cleveland Clinic. Orchiectomy. 2024.

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