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A vasectomy is a common male sterilization procedure – it is performed on an estimated 500,000 U.S. men a year. It does not affect a man’s ability to perform sexually or achieve orgasms, and doesn’t visibly change semen. But because it is considered irreversible, a vasectomy is a serious step.
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How It Works
A vasectomy is an outpatient procedure that takes about 30 minutes. The patient is usually awake, though receives a local anesthetic.
During a vasectomy, the physician cuts the two tubes (vas deferens) that sperm travel through on their journey from the testes, which make sperm, to the penis. The ends are sutured, clipped and/or sealed by heat (cauterized). Two or three stitches close the incision. [In some cases, a no-scalpel technique is used.]
The sperm, with nowhere to go, are absorbed by the body.
The prostate and seminal vesicle glands (which produce components of semen) continue to make fluids, so the semen looks the same. Also, hormone levels are unaffected, so hair distribution, voice pitch and sexual drive and sensations are unchanged.
Note, however, that a vasectomy does not prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
Patients may experience swollen, achy testicles for a week or so after the procedure, as well as bruising in the scrotum. Physicians recommend lying down for six to eight hours after the procedure and placing an ice pack on the incision.
In the five days after surgery, patients should avoid heavy lifting, exercise and sexual intercourse. A small, bloody discharge from the incision site is normal.
Note: It usually takes a few months before sterility is complete, and 15 to 20 ejaculations are required to clear viable sperm from the reproductive system. A physician will confirm sterility with a semen sample two to three months after the vasectomy. Partners should use birth control until a physician determines complete sterility.
The following complications might occur in the first few days after surgery:
Other complications may occur in the first few months after surgery. Among the most common: