What to Expect — Vasectomy

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If you have chosen to have a vasectomy, it is important to know what to expect during and after the procedure.

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    What Are the Types of Vasectomy?

    There are different ways for men to be sterilized. One type does not require an incision — a cut. The other types of vasectomy require an incision. Incision methods take about 20 minutes. The no-incision method takes less time.


    Usually, a local anesthetic is injected into the pelvic area. Then, the doctor makes an incision on each side of the scrotum to reach each vas deferens — the tubes that carry sperm. Sometimes a single incision is made in the center. Each tube is blocked. In most procedures, a small section of each tube is removed. Tubes may be tied off or blocked with surgical clips. Or, they may be closed using an instrument with an electrical current.


    With the no-incision ("no-scalpel") method, the skin of the scrotum is not cut. One tiny puncture is made to reach both tubes. The tubes are then tied off, cauterized, or blocked. The tiny puncture heals quickly. No stitches are needed, and no scarring takes place.

    The no-scalpel method reduces bleeding and decreases the possibility of infection, bruising, and other complications.


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    What Are the Risks of Vasectomy?

    Major complications with vasectomy are rare and are usually caused by infection.

    Complication rates for vasectomy are generally lower for the no-incision method than for methods that include cutting the skin.

    After you've had a vasectomy, look for signs of infection:

    • a fever over 100° F
    • blood or pus oozing from the site of the incision
    • excessive pain or swelling

    See a health care provider if you have signs of infection. You may need an antibiotic.

    Other potential problems include

    • bruising, which usually clears up on its own
    • hematomas — swellings that contain blood. They usually clear up by themselves, or with bed rest or ice packs. In rare cases, they need to be drained by a health care provider.
    • hydroceles — swellings that contain fluid and tenderness near the testicles. They usually clear up in about a week. Applying heat and wearing an athletic supporter can help. In rare cases, they need to be drained with by a health care provider.
    • granuloma — sperm that leaks from the tubes and causes a small lump under the skin near the site of the surgery. This usually clears up by itself. Surgical treatment is sometimes required.
    • pain or discomfort in the testicles. This is usually temporary, but in about 2 out of 100 cases the pain may be chronic and severe. Most of the time, pain is relieved by taking anti-inflammatory drugs or other medications. Very rarely, an injection called a spermatic cord block can be used to deaden the pain temporarily. Vasectomy reversal is very rarely needed to relieve pain permanently.
    • Very rarely, the cut ends of a tube grow back together. This most often happens within four months of the operation and may allow pregnancy to happen.
    • Decreased sexual desire or an inability to have an erection occurs in 4 out of 1,000 cases. The most likely cause is emotional — there is no physical cause for sexual dysfunction associated with vasectomy.
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    Does Vasectomy Hurt?

    Your health care provider will give you medicine to make it as comfortable as possible. Numbing medication and/or sedatives will be used. The choice depends on your health and the method of sterilization being used. Conscious sedation allows you to be awake but deeply relaxed. Local anesthesia blocks the feeling of pain in a certain area of your body. It is much safer than general anesthesia.

    General anesthesia is entirely painless. It allows you to sleep through the procedure.

    When you get local anesthesia, you may feel brief discomfort. You may also feel some pain when the tubes are brought out through the incision.

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    How Will I Feel After Vasectomy?

    As with any surgery, there's some discomfort after the operation. It will be different for each man. However, most men say the pain is "slight" or "moderate" and not "excessive." An athletic supporter, ice bag, and non-aspirin pain reliever may help ease the pain. Avoid strenuous physical work or exercise for about a week. There seems to be less pain associated with no-incision procedures.

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    How Long Does Recovery Take After Vasectomy?

    That depends on your general health and lifestyle. Most men lose little or no time from work. A few need a day or two to rest. You will have to avoid strenuous work or exercise for about a week.

    Rare complications may require more days at home. However, prompt medical attention usually clears up any problems.

    For most men, sexual activity can begin again within a week. Others have sex sooner. Some wait longer. But remember, after the procedure, it takes about three months to clear sperm out of your system. Use another form of birth control for vaginal intercourse until a semen analysis shows there are no longer any sperm in your seminal fluid.

Published: 06.25.08 | Updated: 06.25.08

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