Vasectomy provides the most effective, permanent means of surgical contraception. When compared with other contraceptives, it has one of the lowest incidences of side effects, considering that pregnancy is a side effect of alternative contraceptive failure.
Large-scale studies show that the overall incidence of complications is less than 5 per 100 vasectomies performed.
Minor side effects immediately following vasectomy may include discomfort, swelling and/or bruising of the scrotal skin, all of which usually disappear without treatment.
Swelling: Some men (about 1 in 20) will experience swelling and a low-grade ache in one or both testes anywhere from three days to six months after the procedure. This is probably due to an exaggerated form of the body's natural response to the obstruction caused by the vasectomy. It usually resolves with an anti-inflammatory drug (such as ibuprofen) 600-800 mg 3 times per day and almost never lasts for more than a week or two but for rare patients. In fewer than 1 in 100 men, swelling and discomfort will occur more than once and/or will be severe enough to require prescription pain medications, stronger anti-inflammatory drugs, and one or more days off from work.
Hematoma: About 1 in 100 men will develop a grape-sized hematoma (blood clot) on one side after use of the spray applicator for anesthesia. That causes more noticeable and prolonged (7-10 days) discomfort on that side, but usually does not require prescription pain pills. Early complications such as hemorrhage and infection can occasionally occur after any surgery. Based on large-scale studies, the overall incidence of either hematoma (a blood clot in the scrotum) or infection is less than 2% of the vasectomies performed. Dr. Delfino’s surgical mentor has performed over 48,000 vasectomies. Fifteen patients have developed blood clots in the scrotum, larger than a walnut. Twelve did not require surgical drainage, but swelling did keep them quite tender for 2 to 4 weeks post-op. One man did require same-day admission to the hospital and surgical drainage of the blood clot under general anesthesia in the operating room, another required surgical drainage through a 1-2 inch incision in the office, and a third opted to undergo partial removal of an old clot about one month after his procedure.
Infection: Your procedure will be performed in a sterile manner but not all infections can be prevented. Rarely, a man may develop redness, warmth, or drainage that is attributable to an infection but they usually respond quickly to antibiotics if concerns are communicated to the doctor early.
Death: No deaths have been attributed to vasectomy in the USA.
Long term, vasectomy can lead to the following conditions:
1. A sperm granuloma is a pea sized sometimes-tender mass which results when the body reacts to and walls off sperm which may leak from the lower (testicular) end of the cut vas. A sperm granuloma may actually enhance the likelihood of reversal success.
2. A few (perhaps 5%) of patients will experience periodic tenderness of the epididymis, the tube behind the testis in which sperm are resorbed by white blood cells after vasectomy. Since this resorption process is a form of inflammation, it nearly always responds to a short course (3-7 days) of an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. Post-vasectomy pain syndrome is defined as testicular pain (on one or both sides) for greater than 3 months after having a vasectomy, severe enough to interfere with daily activities and causing a patient to seek medical attention. Because pain is so subjective, reported rates vary but compiled data would suggest that this is a significant problem for 1-2% of vasectomy patients. Vasectomy reversal, removal of the epididymis, or a special procedure called neurolysis (all major procedures) may be required to alleviate the discomfort. About 2 patients per year (about 1 in 1500) develop prolonged vasectomy site tenderness for which they eventually choose to undergo another minor office-based vasectomy procedure on one side to remove the tender spot. Thus, out of over 40,000 patients, eight (about one in 5000) have considered or required a second MAJOR procedure to manage pain, and another 20 (about 1 in 1500) have required a second MINOR procedure to manage pain or local tenderness.
3. Recanalization is the re-establishment of sperm flow from the testis up to the rest of the reproductive tract by virtue of the cut ends of the vas growing back together after vasectomy. Early recanalizations occur during the healing process. They are detected at the time of follow-up semen checks when live (moving) sperm or significant numbers of non-motile (not moving) sperm are still seen in semen specimens six months after the vasectomy. An unwanted pregnancy does not occur if the couple has used other forms of contraception as advised. It obviously requires that the procedure be repeated and there is no charge for the second procedure.
Late recanalization, return of live sperm to the semen at some time after the semen has been confirmed to be sperm-free by microscopic examination, is also very rare. From Dr. Delfino's mentor, "I have had direct experience with this problem 21 times. One man caught it on a routine semen check performed “just to be sure” he was still sperm-free, before a pregnancy occurred. The other 20 men caused pregnancies and then were confirmed to have sperm in their semen. Another two men caused DNA-documented pregnancies, but had no sperm in their semen on multiple tests (the veritable “one got through”), and another three caused non-DNA-documented pregnancies without detectable sperm in the semen, but they have “no doubt” that no other man was involved. As the years go by, other cases of delayed failure of my own vasectomies may occur, so the number may rise. But considering these 26 cases out of 42,000 and reports in the literature, late failure resulting in pregnancy is possible but rare, odds being about one in 2000 over the lifetime of the patient, a rate of failure MUCH lower than with any other form of contraception."
My Vasectomy Doc does not require another semen check after the absence of sperm has been confirmed, but patients may return with or mail a second sample any time after vasectomy to achieve an added index of confidence. There is no charge for the exam, but we ask $10 to send to you a mailer.
4. Anti-sperm antibodies do appear in the blood of about half of the patients who undergo vasectomy and patients who develop antibodies may have a lower chance of causing a pregnancy even when a successful vasectomy reversal allows sperm to re-enter the ejaculate. These antibodies have no influence on health status otherwise.
5. An article reporting a modest association between vasectomy and prostate cancer was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO) on September 20, 2014. Based on an updated meta-analysis of this and many other articles that have addressed this topic through the years, the American Urological Association reaffirmed on November 7, 2014 that vasectomy is NOT a risk factor for prostate cancer and it is not necessary for physicians to routinely discuss prostate cancer in their preoperative counseling of vasectomy patients. There have been many articles since then confirming the absence of an association.
6. There are reports on the Internet in which contributors claim that they experienced a change in erectile function, libido, or climax intensity after vasectomy. There is no physiological explanation for these changes, either positive or negative, but men should consider the slight possibility of a negative or positive influence of vasectomy on their sexual responses.