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What To Know About Vasectomy Risks, Reversals and Common Myths


Men no longer interested in expanding their family may want to consider a vasectomy. This permanent form of birth control is not only safe but can be done in the urologist’s office in as little as 30 minutes.

“A vasectomy is one of the most effective methods of birth control out there, right up there with a tubal ligation in terms of effectiveness. But it is far less invasive, requires far less recovery and it does not require a general anesthetic,” said Lawrence + Memorial Hospital Urologist Katherine Rotker, MD.

How does a vasectomy work?

Dr. Rotker performs what is known as a no-scalpel vasectomy, which requires a single puncture size incision. From there, she can access the vas deferens or sperm duct, blocking sperm from leaving the body. The process only requires local anesthesia, and no stitches are needed.

After a vasectomy, the patient can go home and take things easy for about 48 hours. The only follow-up required takes place at 12 weeks, when a semen check is done to ensure sperm has cleared the patient’s system.

Are there any risks associated with a vasectomy?

Like any procedure, there is a very rare risk of bleeding and infection. There is also an extremely rare failure rate of around 0.1%. However, that is still a much lower failure rate compared to any other form of birth control.

While a vasectomy can be reversed, Dr. Rotker said that process is much more involved. Reversals are not covered by insurance and can cost upwards of $20,000. The procedure is also usually done in the operating room and can take several hours. Therefore, patients considering a vasectomy should not go into it thinking they can easily get it reversed sometime soon.

Debunking vasectomy myths

Dr. Rotker says her patients typically have two main concerns. Some worry it will impact their sexual health. However, long term data shows a vasectomy has no effects on erectile function.

In addition, there was some concern back in the 80s that a vasectomy could increase the risk of prostate cancer, but that has been well debunked in studies as well.

Starting the vasectomy conversation

Dr. Rotker says she often sees couples come in for consultation together. At times, the patient’s partner brought up the idea, but they are unsure of the risks and benefits involved.

While more men are taking on the responsibility of birth control, there is still some work that needs to be done. A study done between 1998-2002 found that the rates of tubal ligation were still two to three times higher than vasectomies. Dr. Rotker says she hopes that is changing.

“This is a very reasonable choice for patients who are sure they’re done with their childbearing,” she said.

Interested in learning more? Find a urologist near you.