Sperm passes from the testes to the penis in tubes called the vas deferens. A vasectomy is a surgery that blocks these tubes. This makes a man unable to make a woman pregnant.
Male Reproductive Anatomy
Reasons for Procedure
The surgery is done to make you sterile. This means that you are unable to cause a pregnancy.
A vasectomy is done as permanent birth control. This option is for men who are sure they will not want to father a child in the future. There is a surgery to reverse a vasectomy. However, the reverse is not always successful.
If you are planning to have a vasectomy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications with you, which may include:
- Chronic pain in and around the testes
- Sperm granuloma—lumps due to immune system response to sperm leaking from the reproductive organs
- Ability to still make a woman pregnant
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Local infections
- Bleeding disorders
- Prior surgery in that area
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Medical history
- Review of medications
- Discuss the effects of this procedure
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
In the days leading up to your procedure:
- Arrange for a ride to and from the procedure.
- Wear comfortable clothing.
- Take any medication as ordered by your doctor. A mild sedative before the procedure may be advised.
- Shower before leaving home.
- You may be asked to trim your scrotal hair.
Local anesthesia will be used. It will numb the area. You may also be given medication to help you relax.
Description of the Procedure
There are three techniques for a vasectomy:
- Conventional approach—One small cut will be made in the skin on each side of the scrotum. The vas deferens will be pulled through the openings. The tubes will then be cut. A small piece of the tubes may also be removed. The ends of the tube will be sealed off with stitches, clips, or an electrical pulse. The vas deferens will then be placed back into the scrotum. The incision will be closed with stitches.
- No-scalpel vasectomy—The doctor will locate the vas deferens under the scrotal skin. A clamp will be attached to hold it in place. A special tool will be used to punch a small hole in the skin. The hole will be stretched open to pull the vas deferens through. The tubes will then be cut and sealed as above. The holes will heal without stitches.
- Vas clip vasectomy—The vas deferens will be exposed in either of the two manners above. Special clips will be placed around each vas deferens and cinched in place. The clips will block the flow of sperm beyond the position of the clip.
How Long Will It Take?
Conventional vasectomies take about 30 minutes. No-scalpel procedures take about 20 minutes.
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia prevents pain during the procedure. You can expect some soreness for a few days. Take pain medications as directed by your doctor.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Do not lift heavy objects or participate in sports for 2-3 weeks.
- Use another form of birth control until tests show that there is no sperm in your semen
A vasectomy may not make you sterile right away. Tests will be done to look for any sperm in the semen. The tests may be done at your doctor's office or with a home test kit. These tests are done to make sure that the procedure was effective.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from the incision site
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain that you cannot control with the medications you have been given
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Urology Care Foundation
Men's Health Centre
U.Va. researcher's sperm-check home test receives FDA OK. University of Virginia website. Available at: http://news.virginia.edu/node/4397?id=4397. Published March 5, 2008. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Vasectomy. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/vasectomy/Pages/default.aspx. Updated July 16, 2013. Accessed October 27, 2014.
Vasectomy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at: http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-topics/birth-control/vasectomy-4249.htm. Accessed October 27, 2014.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
10/26/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Sharlip I, Belker A, Stanton H, Labrecque M, Marmar J, Ross L, Sandlow J, Sokal D. American Urological Association Vasectomy Guideline. 2012.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.