A vasectomy is a simple way to prevent men from fathering further children. It is often chosen as a safe and reliable alternative to female sterilization.
How is the operation done?
Our consultants are very experienced in the ‘no scalpel’ technique where the operation can be performed through a very small puncture wound on each side of the scrotum. A small amount of a local anaesthetic is injected into the scrotum and then a section of the tube that carries the sperm (the vas deferens) is removed on each side. This means that the sperm are prevented from reaching the semen that is ejaculated during sex. The wound is closed with a few small sutures that fall out on their own after a short time period.
What should patients do after the operation?
Patients can return home the same day as the procedure. They are advised to avoid any strenuous physical activity for at least 3 days and to wear supportive underwear for up to 2 weeks. Those with a desk job can usually return to work within 2 days but if they have a manual job that involves lifting or other heavy work it is best to take at least 5 days off and then take care to avoid undue straining for the next few days. Wounds should be kept dry for 24 hours after which they can shower or bath as normal. Sex can be resumed as soon as is confortable and regular sex will be required to clear retained sperm from the system before the operation becomes effective.
How soon can contraception be stopped?
The operation is not effective immediately as sperm are present in the semen for weeks and sometimes months after the operation. The operating surgeon will arrange for sperm tests to be done after a time period and it is essential that alternative methods of contraception are used until the tests are completed and patients have been given the ‘all clear’ in writing.
What happens if sperm remain in the semen?
Occasionally a low number of sperm remain and repeat testing is required until these sperm are flushed from the system. Very rarely larger numbers of sperm remain. It is thought that in this situation the divided tubes have healed back across through a process called ‘recannalisation’. When this occurs a repeat operation is likely to be required.
What complications can occur after the operation?
Most men are just a little sore after the operation with perhaps some slight swelling. A few may develop more marked bruising or infection with an increase in pain and possibly a temperature. If any of these symptoms occur a patients will need to see a doctor again. A vasectomy will not affect sexual performance and there is no increased risk of prostate or testicular cancer after the operation. Around 3% of men may develop chronic discomfort or pain in one or both testicles. Usually this is not severe, is intermittent and can be managed with simple painkillers.
Can a vasectomy operation be reversed?
A vasectomy should be considered a permanent procedure. If a patients circumstances change then a reversal can be attempted but the operation is at best only about 60% successful. If patients aren’t happy to accept the permanence of the operation they should consider continuing to use a reversible method of contraception instead.