Sperm passes from the testicles 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
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Reasons for Procedure
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 reversal is not always successful.
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Chronic pain in and around the testicles
- Sperm granuloma—lumps caused by an immune system response to sperm leaking from the reproductive organs
- Ability to still make a woman pregnant
Before your procedure, talk to your doctor about ways to manage factors that may increase your risk of complications such as:
- Local infections
- Bleeding disorders
- Prior surgery in that area
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The doctor will review previous tests. 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 3 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 2 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.
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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.
Heavy lifting and other treatment may be limited for a few weeks.
A vasectomy may not make you sterile right away. Birth control should be continued until tests show the surgery was successful.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not going as you expect or have problems such as:
- 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 were given
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Sharlip I, Belker A, Stanton H, Labrecque M, Marmar J, Ross L, Sandlow J, Sokal D. American Urological Association Vasectomy Guideline. Updated 2015. Available at: http://www.auanet.org/guidelines/vasectomy-(2012-amended-2015).
Vasectomy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115819/Vasectomy. Accessed December 18, 2020.
Vasectomy. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development website. Available at: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/vasectomy/Pages/default.aspx. Accessed December 18, 2020.
Vasectomy. Planned Parenthood website. Available at: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/birth-control/vasectomy. Accessed December 18, 2020.
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: 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.
Last reviewed November 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2020