Healthy Living: Pediatric Panel defines benefits of circumcision
It's a controversial but not uncommon procedure, and now the nation's most influential pediatricians group recently took a new position on circumcision. YNN's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
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Circumcision, rooted in religious and cultural traditions, removes the foreskin from the tip of the penis.
"At this point in the United States approximately 55 to 60 percent of newborn males are circumcised. Over the past two decades the rate of circumcision has decreased," said Dr. Marty Ellington, Jr., chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Lenox Hill Hospital.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently found that the benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh its risks, and comes more than a decade after its previous statement on the procedure.
"In 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics said essentially there wasn't a big medical benefit to circumcision there was some, but it wasn't clear if the risks and the benefits outweighed each other," said Dr. Howard Heiman, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center.
In 2007, the academy put together a task force to explore the current research on circumcision before reversing its position.
"This is not a blanket recommendation that all male babies should have circumcision but what it is is that if the family is considering circumcision and are looking for any medical rationale for that we now have clear evidence that there is a benefit," Ellington, Jr. said.
The academy says circumcision prevents urinary tract infection in newborns and lowers the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. It says because of these benefits, health insurance should cover circumcision. The academy recommends only a skilled person perform the procedure and that sterile techniques and effective pain management be used.
But a number a number of groups, like "Intact America", have condemned the Academy's new policy on the procedure and say circumcision is unethical and unnecessary.
Though Dr. Howard Heiman, Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cohen Children's Medical Center, performs circumcisions, he does caution, it's not without its risks.
"Bleeding, infection and poor cosmetic result. And I do say that there are some who feel that by removing nerves it may remove sensitivity but there has been no objectification of that on any good study," Heiman said.
For now, parents have more information than they did in the past when making the decision.