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What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure designed to interrupt the sperm transportation system between the testicle and the penis. The procedure takes about 30 to 45 minutes, usually has few complications and no change in sexual function. About 500,000 vasectomies are performed annually in the U.S. An increasing number of couples choose vasectomy as a means of permanent birth control.

How is a vasectomy performed?

In general, vasectomies are performed in the urologist’s office using a local numbing anesthetic as well as an oral pain medicine. However, the procedure may be done at an outpatient surgery center or in a hospital setting if the patient and urologist have determined that intravenous sedation is preferable. The decision to proceed in that type of setting may be based upon the patient’s anatomy, anxiety or the need for associated surgical procedures.

With a conventional vasectomy, a urologist makes two small cuts in the skin of the scrotum. The vas deferens is cut, and a small piece may be removed leaving a short gap between the two remaining ends. Next, the urologist occludes the cut ends and closes up the scrotal incision with dissolvable stitches. The entire procedure is then repeated on the other side.

What should I expect after a vasectomy?

Your urologist will provide you with specific recommendations for your care after a vasectomy. Rest and limited mobility are required for one to three days following the procedure to reduce swelling and allow healing. A scrotal support is recommended during this time. Strenuous activity and heavy lifting should be avoided for a few days.

It may take a few days before erections and ejaculations are comfortable. Swelling and discomfort can be minimized by placing an ice pack on the scrotum. Most patients can expect to recover completely in less than a week and many are able to return to their job as early as a day after the procedure.

When can I resume sexual activity?

Sexual activity can usually be resumed within a few days following a vasectomy. However, it is important that all patients recognize that a vasectomy, even though successful, is not effective immediately. For most men, 15 to 20 ejaculations or six to eight weeks are required before the ejaculatory ducts are free of sperm. The effectiveness of the vasectomy must be proven by having the patient submit at least one semen analysis, which demonstrates that there are no sperm in the ejaculate. Effective contraception methods must be used until advised by your urologist.

Are there any risks associated with a vasectomy?

A patient experiencing fever, scrotal redness or tenderness should be evaluated by the surgeon as this may indicate signs of infection or bleeding. Discomfort is usually minimal and should respond to mild analgesics. More severe pain may indicate infection or other complications. Post-vasectomy pain syndrome is a chronic pain syndrome that
follows vasectomy. The cause of this syndrome and its incidence are unclear. It is generally treated with antiinflammatory agents.