Hemorrhage is defined as excessive bleeding. It can result from any event that ruptures blood vessels, including any cut or surgical procedure. Hemorrhage is a fairly common complication of circumcision.
Shulman etal list it as the most common (immediate) complication. They state that bleeding may be caused by inadequate hemostasis (compressing of blood vessels), by abnormalities of blood coagulation, or by anomalous vessels. 14.
Treatments include application of adrenaline-soaked gauze sponge to the bleeding site, ligature (tying off) of a blood vessel, Gelfoam (chemical foam to stop bleeding), silver nitrate stick, or topically applied thrombin, retying of Plasti-bell string, and administration of cryoprecipitate. 15.
Occasionally babies have required blood transfusions as a result of post-circumcision hemorrhage. One doctor tells of his experience:
I spent a considerable portion of one evening transfusing an infant circumcised by an expert Rabbi. The hemorrhage had to be controlled in the operating-room and the baby was hospitalized for two days…. I know of other cases needing transfusion under the same conditions and I have seen several babies considerably anemic owing to the insidious loss of blood which is easily overlooked for several hours. 16.
Babies have died from post-circumcision hemorrhage. Since Biblical times the Jews have had a law that if two sons of the same mother bled to death following circumcision, any future sons were exempt from the ritual. This indicates that hemorrhage has always been a complication of circumcision. …
Finally, undetected hemophilia can produce drastic results if such an infant is circumcised. Occasionally hemophilia is discovered when the infant undergoes circumcision and subsequently hemorrhages.
“The Risks of Circumcision are Severe, Real, and Well Documented”. Opposing Views. – Williams & Kapila (1993) report an incredible variety of complications, up to and including death. The incidence of death from circumcision related complications is unknown, because no on maintains a record of deaths from circumcision, however Gellis says there are more deaths from complications of circumcision than cancer of the penis, while Baker estimates 229 deaths a year from circumcision. Coroner’s reports show several circumcision deaths at the hands of medical practitioners, and, tragically, two deaths after ritual circumcision are a matter of record.
“Circumcision is Not Minor Surgery”. National Organization of Circumcision Information. Opposing Views – Bleeding—the foreskin is highly vascularized, making hemorrhage a particular risk.
Death—may result from bleeding, infection, urinary retention, or cardiac arrest. Since there is no central registry of circumcision deaths, the actual number of babies who die from circumcision is unknown, but has been estimated to be over 100 annually in the United States.