Retractable foreskin reduces urinary tract infections in infant boys with vesicoureteral reflux

Published:January 09, 2021DOI:



      Uncircumcised males are at higher risk of urinary tract infection (UTI) in the first year of life and circumcision is recommended as an option for males with vesicoureteral reflux (VUR). Uncircumcised males treated successfully with topical corticosteroid cream have decreased risk of UTI but the role of preputial management has not been explored previously in males with VUR.


      We hypothesized that among uncircumcised boys with VUR, those with retractable foreskin would be at reduced risk of UTI compared to those with non-retractable foreskin.

      Study design

      Males less than one year of age with primary VUR were prospectively enrolled. Patients with concomitant urologic diagnoses or less than one month of follow-up were excluded. Phimosis severity was graded on a 0–5 scale. Primary outcome was UTI during follow-up. Patients were divided into three groups for analysis: circumcised, low grade phimosis (grades 0–3) and high grade phimosis (grades 4–5). Multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression was used to estimate UTI risk adjusting for risk factors.


      One-hundred and five boys (24 circumcised and 81 uncircumcised) with VUR were included. Median age at enrollment was 4.4 months (IQR 2.2–6.6) and median follow-up was 1.1 years (IQR 0.53–2.9). Males with phimosis grades 4–5 had a higher UTI rate (29%) compared to phimosis grade 0–3 (4%). Based on Kaplan–Meier curves, boys with initial phimosis grades 4–5 were significantly more likely to develop a UTI than boys who were circumcised or had phimosis grades 0–3 (p = 0.005). On multivariable analysis, boys with phimosis grades 4–5 were significantly more likely to develop UTI when compared to boys with grades 0–3 phimosis (HR = 8.4, 95% CI: 1.1–64, p = 0.04).


      Males with a retractable prepuce had a lower UTI risk compared to males with non-retractable prepuce (high grade phimosis) and this remained significant on multivariable analysis. This is concordant with prior studies demonstrating that a retractable prepuce is associated with decreased UTI risk. Limitations of our study include using phimosis grade at time of study enrollment and heterogenous prophylactic antibiotic use in our population.


      Summary Figure
      Graphical AbstractKaplan–Meier survival plot for UTI risk for phimosis grades 4–5, phimosis grades 0–3, and circumcised males.



      VUR (Vesicoureteral reflux), UTI (Urinary tract infection), RBUS (Renal bladder ultrasound), VCUG (Voiding cystourethrogram), CAP (Continuous antibiotic prophylaxis)
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