Early Genital Surgery in Disorders/Differences of Sex Development: Patients’ Perspectives

the dsd-LIFE Group

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Controversy continues over a proposed moratorium on elective genital surgery in childhood for disorders/differences of sex development (DSD). Empirical evidence on patient preference is needed to inform decision-making. We conducted a multicentre survey by cross-sectional questionnaire in 14 specialized clinics in six European countries. The sample comprised 459 individuals (≥ 16 years) with a DSD diagnosis, including individuals with congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) (n = 192), XY DSD with prenatal androgen effect (A) (n = 150), and without (nA) (n = 117). Main outcome measures were level of agreement with given statements regarding genital surgery, including clitoris reduction, vaginoplasty, and hypospadias repair. A total of 66% of individuals with CAH and 60% of those with XY DSD-A thought that infancy or childhood were the appropriate age for genital surgery. Females with XY DSD were divided on this issue and tended to prefer vaginoplasty at a later age (XY DSD-A 39%, XY DSD-nA 32%). A total of 47% of males preferred early hypospadias surgery. Only 12% (CAH), 11% (XY DSD-A), and 21% (XY DSD-nA) thought they would have been better off without any surgery in childhood or adolescence. Individuals who had early genital surgery were more likely to approve of it. Outcome data failed to support a general moratorium on early elective genital surgery. Participant perspectives varied considerably by diagnostic category, gender, history of surgery, and contact with support groups. Case-by-case decision-making is better suited to grasping the ethical complexity of the issues at stake. Trial registration: German Clinical Trials Register DRKS00006072.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)913-923
Number of pages11
JournalArchives of Sexual Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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