Vasectomy Procedure: Male Sterilization

Vasectomy Procedure. Photo © A.D.A.M.


Vasectomy is a surgical procedure where a small incision is made in the upper part of the man’s scrotum. The no scalpel vasectomy is a slight variation where the scrotal sac is punctured instead of requiring an incision. Regardless of which way the surgeon gets in, the two tubes (vas deferens) that carry sperm into the semen are cut apart and then tied off or cauterized (burned or seared).

The incision is closed with stitches. Once completed, a vasectomy procedure prevents the release of sperm when a man ejaculates. Vasectomies are often performed in a surgeon's office; the man is awake, and the doctor will use local anesthesia to numb the area. After the procedure, a man will still produce semen, but it will be free of sperm and will not cause pregnancy.

A man may choose to have a vasectomy procedure if he is certain that he wishes to prevent future pregnancies. Although a vasectomy permanently sterilizes a man, it can be often be reversed (though reversal surgery is a rather involved procedure).

There are no serious risks when undergoing a vasectomy procedure. You may experience some swelling and bruising of the scrotum. A semen sample is usually obtained after the procedure to make sure the semen does not contain sperm and to determine if the vasectomy was done correctly.

On rare occasions, the vas deferens can grow back together again; if this happens, sperm can mix with semen, and then it is possible to make your partner pregnant.

A vasectomy does not affect a man's ability to have an erection, achieve orgasm, or ejaculate. Most men can go home after the procedure is completed, and return to work the next day.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to wear a scrotal supporter for 3 to 4 days after the vasectomy, and he'll have you use an ice pack to prevent or reduce swelling. Pain medicine can be used to help alleviate any discomfort. Men can engage in sexual intercourse when they feel ready, which typically takes about a week after the procedure.

Pronunciation: va•sec•to•my [vass-EK-toe-mee]

Also Known As: Male sterilization surgery; permanent birth control; male contraception; keyhole vasectomy

Common Misspellings: Vascectomy, Vacectomy, Vasectomy, Vasectamy

Examples: A vasectomy procedure is considered a permanent birth control method.

Effectiveness of the Vasectomy Procedure

Vasectomies are over 99% effective assuming that a semen analysis has documented that there are no sperm in the semen. Of every 100 women whose partners have had a vasectomy, less than 1 will become pregnant in a year. It takes about 3 months (or 10 to 20 ejaculations) after a vasectomy for sperm to be no longer present in the semen. Sperm count will gradually decrease. A man should continue to use contraception until he has had 2 to 3 sperm count tests with negative results.

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