A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure that stops the flow of sperm between the testicle and the urethra by blocking the vasa deferentia, the tube-like structure that carries sperm to the testicle and through the urethra to the ejaculatory duct. A vasectomy is performed as a permanent means of birth control. However, in some cases, due to personal reasons or changes in circumstances in a man's life, he may wish to have the vasectomy reversed. In rare cases, a vasectomy reversal may be performed to treat testicular pain that has developed as a result of the initial vasectomy procedure.
The Vasectomy Reversal Procedure
The vasectomy reversal is performed as an out-patient procedure, and the patient is treated with with a general or local anesthetic. There are two different options for performing the procedure.
The vasovasostomy is the most common approach for performing a vasectomy reversal. During this procedure the ends of the vasa deferentia are surgically reconnected to create a passageway for sperm.
A vasoepididymostomy is a more complicated procedure, and this approach may be used if a vasovasostomy will not be successful. During this procedure, the surgeon attaches the vas deferens directly to the epididymis, the organ behind each testicle that holds sperm.
In some cases, depending on the condition of the vas deferens and if there is any scar tissue, a combination of the two techniques may be used.
Recovery from a Vasectomy Reversal
After the procedure, the incisions are covered with bandages, and the groin area may be swollen and may feel sore. Ice is applied to treat swelling and over-the-counter medication is used for pain. Patients are advised to wear tight- fitting under garments or a jock-strap for support for several weeks after the procedure. Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 2 to 4 weeks after a vasectomy reversal. Most patients can return to regular physical activity within a week.
A urologist may perform a semen analysis every 2 to 3 months after surgery to monitor sperm count. Sperm normally appear in the semen within a few months after a vasovasostomy, although after a vasoepididymostomy, it may take up to a year for sperm to appear.
Risks of a Vasectomy Reversal
A vasectomy reversal is considered a safe and low-risk procedure, however possible complications may include:
- Bleeding within the scrotum
- Chronic pain following the procedure
Most previous vasectomies can be successfully reversed if the reversal procedure is performed within a few years after the original vasectomy.