McKesson Clinical Reference Systems: Women's Health Advisor 2002.2
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What is a vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a procedure that a man can ask a doctor to perform to make him sterile. The doctor removes a section of the two tubes (vas deferens, or vas) that carry sperm from the testes to the penis. The testes are the two sex organs in the scrotum.

A few months after the vasectomy, the semen (the fluid that is ejaculated during sex) will no longer contain sperm. There is no change in a man's ability to have an erection and sexual intercourse after the surgery. The only difference is that there are no sperm in the semen to cause pregnancy.

When is it used?

A vasectomy is one of the most effective and safest forms of birth control. It is done only when a man asks for it. It is important to understand that sterilization is usually permanent.

An alternative is to try other forms of birth control. You should ask your doctor about your choices.

How does a man prepare for a vasectomy?

Follow instructions provided by the doctor. Plan for care and recovery after the operation.

What happens during the procedure?

The vasectomy is done in an outpatient clinic or in the doctor's office. It usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

The doctor numbs each side of the scrotum with a local anesthetic. Then he or she makes one or two small cuts in the skin of the scrotum. The doctor pulls each vas through the opening and cuts out a section of each vas. The two ends of each vas are sealed and the vas are then placed back in the scrotum. The cuts are closed with stitches.

What happens after the procedure?

The man may go home after the procedure is completed. There may be some pain in the groin for 3 or 4 days after the operation. Some blood or yellow liquid may ooze from the cuts on the outside. The area around the cuts may swell a bit and turn black and blue.

The doctor may recommend the following:

  • Put an ice bag on the scrotum for 2 hours after the procedure.
  • Rest at home for 2 or 3 days.
  • Avoid all heavy lifting for at least 1 week.
  • Wear a jockstrap or tight fitting underwear to support the scrotum (testicles) for 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Take a pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, for any pain following the operation.
  • Go back to work as soon as one is able, usually within a few days.

A man may have sex again as soon as he feels able, usually about a week after the procedure. For 2 to 4 months he should use other birth control methods during sexual intercourse, until a semen test is sperm-free. Ask the doctor what other steps should be taken and when a checkup and semen tests should be scheduled.

If a man had a vasectomy more than 20 years ago, or was over 40 years old at the time of a vasectomy, he may have a higher risk of cancer in the prostate gland. The American Urological Association and the American Cancer Society recommend having the prostate checked for cancer. The tests may include an annual digital rectal exam, with a prostate exam, and a check of the serum-prostate-specific antigen level.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

  • Vasectomy is a very reliable method of birth control.
  • There are no pills to take or devices to insert, and there is no interruption of sex.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

  • Local anesthesia may not numb the area quite enough and some minor discomfort may be felt. Also, in rare cases, people have an allergic reaction to the drug used in this type of anesthesia.
  • The tissue next to the testes may become swollen.
  • There may be bleeding in the scrotum.
  • There is a chance that months or years after the operation sperm may again appear in the semen and possibly cause a woman to become pregnant.
  • There is a risk of infection or bleeding.

You should ask your doctor about these risks.

When should I call the doctor?

Call the doctor immediately if:

  • A fever develops.
  • It is difficult to urinate.
  • There is excessive swelling in the testes.

Call the doctor during office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its result.
  • You want to make another appointment.

Developed by McKesson Clinical Reference Systems.
Published by McKesson Clinical Reference Systems.

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

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