Disorders of Sex Development Workup

Updated: Jul 17, 2017
  • Author: Joel Hutcheson, MD; Chief Editor: Marc Cendron, MD  more...
  • Print

Laboratory Studies

A logical workup in infants with ambiguous genitalia includes the following:

  • Chromosomal analysis
  • Endocrine screening
  • Serum chemistries/electrolyte tests
  • Androgen-receptor levels
  • 5-Alpha-reductase type II levels

Imaging Studies

Renal/bladder ultrasonography can be performed at the bedside in the neonatal internsive care unit (ICU). Ultrasonography usually allows visualization of a neonate's adrenal glands, which may be enlarged in congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH); however, normal adrenal glands on ultrasonography do not exclude CAH. When adrenal glands are enlarged in patients with CAH, they have a cribriform appearance. Ultrasonography also helps identify müllerian structures. In a neonate, ambiguous genitalia, enlarged adrenal glands, and evidence of a uterus are virtually pathognomonic for CAH.

Genitography helps determine ductal anatomy. In a neonate with ambiguous genitalia, a catheter can be inserted into the distal urogenital sinus (urethra). Contrast is injected to outline the internal ductal anatomy. Findings may indicate normal urethral anatomy, an enlarged utricle, a müllerian remnant in a male, a common urogenital sinus, or an area of vaginal and urethral confluence in female neonates.

Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are usually not indicated but may help identify internal anatomy.



Open exploration may help identify internal duct anatomy and allow gonadal tissue to be obtained for histologic characterization; however, many authors advocate laparoscopy for this purpose.

A laparoscope may be inserted just inferior to the umbilicus under general anesthesia, allowing rapid identification and delineation of the internal duct anatomy without the morbidity associated with open exploration. Biopsy of gonads may be performed laparoscopically by placing additional trocars.


Histologic Findings

Histologic analysis of gonadal biopsy specimens may identify ovarian tissue, testicular tissue, ovotestes, or streak gonads.