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What is a vasectomy?

vasectomy - anatomy side view


A vasectomy is a method of permanent male sterilisation. The tubes that carry sperm from the testes are cut, stopping the passage of sperm to the penis. You will still be able to ejaculate, but the fluid produced has no sperm mixed in it, so will not lead to pregnancy.




How is a vasectomy performed?

This procedure may be performed under local or general anaesthetic. One or two cuts are made in the scrotal skin, and the sperm tubes are then cut. The ends are closed with stitches, clips or electric current (cautery). The skin is then stitched closed.

You should be able to go home on the same day, but should stay off work for a few days. Your testicles will probably ache for a few days, and you should refrain from sex or strenuous activity for the first 48 hours. Your sexual feelings or ability to have an erection should not be affected by this procedure.

About 3 months after the operation you will be asked to give two sperm samples, a few weeks apart. These are tested to check for any signs of sperm. You should continue to use contraception until your doctor says you are sperm-free.

A vasectomy should be considered as a permanent procedure. It is possible in some cases to rejoin the tube ends and 'reverse' the procedure, but this is not always possible or successful.


What are the risks of having a vasectomy?

This is a common procedure, and is usually safe. Complications can occasionally occur, though, which include:

  • Infection - this may need antibiotics for treatment

  • Bleeding - this occasionally requires a blood transfusion or further surgery

  • Pain - whilst the pain from vasectomy will usually subside in a few days, it can occasionally take months for full recovery to occur

  • Granuloma - if any sperm leaks, painful swellings can form on the ends of the tubes. This usually settles in time, but may rarely need further surgery

  • Epididymitis - occasionally, pressure may build up in the tubes of the testes after the operation, causing pain. This usually settles on its own

  • Return of fertility - this is rare (about 1 in 3000). Unfortunately there is no way of knowing if this has occurred without testing the semen


Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.

The information provided is for guidance only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer






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