Vasectomy is a safe and effective form of permanent birth control. When compared to conventional incisional vasectomy using a scalpel, No-scalpel vasectomy has lower risks of infection, bleeding, and postoperative pain. Recovery is often quicker with No-scalpel vasectomy than is recovery from conventional incisional vasectomy.
Vasectomy has been very well studied and has the highest safety profile and lowest risk of any other sterilization procedure.
Vasectomy is extremely safe but not without risk
The risks of vasectomy are listed below from most common to least common.
Each section below expands to provide greater detail about the risks of vasectomy.
Regret is a real risk after a vasectomy procedure. The most common reasons for regret are the desire to have another child after divorce and remarriage, unexpected loss of child, or a change of heart. The chance of regret after vasectomy in the United States has been estimated to be 17 out of every 100 patients (17%).
More information about vasectomy regret.
Vasectomy reversal is not a direct risk of vasectomy, but is a possible consequence of vasectomy should you have vasectomy regret. Vasectomy should be considered permanent because there are no guarantees reversal will be successful. Most people are aware, to some small extent, vasectomy can be reversed. Anyone considering vasectomy should be aware of important concepts regarding vasectomy reversal.
More information about vasectomy reversal before having a vasectomy.
Inflammatory reactions can occur after vasectomy in the epididymis or vas deferens. Often this is one-sided but can involve both sides. The symptoms are mild swelling and discomfort. Often this occurs three (3) to ten (10) days after a vasectomy and resolves with time. An inflammatory reaction can also be delayed and occur weeks to months after a vasectomy. The risk of an inflammatory reaction is about 5 out of every 100 patients (5%).
More information about inflammatory reactions after vasectomy.
The vasectomy site on either side of the scrotum could develop a painful nodule. These painful nodules can either be sperm granulomas (collection of sperm) or neuromas (scar tissue with nerves). Small nodules, even small granulomas, the size of a pea at each vasectomy site are common and do not require treatment. Painful nodules that persist for more than six months after vasectomy are not common and may be evidence of either a symptomatic sperm granuloma or neuroma. The chance of painful nodule formation after vasectomy is estimated to occur in 1 or 2 out of every 100 patients (1.5%).
More information about painful nodules after vasectomy.
Bleeding can occur during or after a vasectomy procedure. Most bleeding after vasectomy is minimal, from the scrotal skin edges, and resolves within several hours. The most serious form of bleeding is hematoma formation and this can occur within the first 24 hours after having a vasectomy procedure. A hematoma is when blood accumulates in the scrotum. The risk of hematoma formation after vasectomy is less than 1 out of every 1000 patients (0.1%).
More information about risks of bleeding after vasectomy.
Infection a risk with any surgical procedure but infection is a rare complication of vasectomy. Infection can occur because bacteria are introduced into the scrotum during the vasectomy procedure or bacteria can gain access to the scrotal space after the procedure but before the scrotal incision has completely healed. Most vasectomy infections will present within the first 10 days of a vasectomy procedure.
The risk of infection after vasectomy is approximately 1 out of every 1000 patients (0.1%).
More information about infection after vasectomy.
Failure to achieve or maintain sterility can occur after vasectomy. Vasectomy can fail because the vas deferens on either side may be difficult to find and divide or they can reconnect. Reconnection of the vas deferens can occur early (weeks to months) after a vasectomy or later after a vasectomy (months to years).
The most common reason for vasectomy failure is not using an appropriate backup method within the first three (3) months of the vasectomy procedure.
The chance of any vasectomy failing is estimated to occur in 3 out of every 1000 patients (0.3%).
For more information about vasectomy failure.
Chronic scrotal pain can occur after vasectomy. Chronic scrotal pain is uncommon and poorly studied.
Chronic scrotal pain can occur after any surgery to the male reproductive system (testicles, prostate, penis, etc), urinary system (kidneys, ureters, bladder), or surgery to the anterior abdominal wall (i.e. hernia surgery) or posterior abdominal wall (i.e. spine surgery).
It is common to have minor aches and pains the first several weeks after vasectomy. In the vast majority of cases these aches and pains will completely resolved by one (1) to three (3) months.
Chronic scrotal pain is defined as scrotal pain that last for more than six (6) months after a surgical procedure and can range from minor to severe.
Minor chronic scrotal pain is often reported by men as discomfort that did not exist before vasectomy and last for more than six (6) months after their vasectomy. Many of these men report the discomfort is enough to notice but not bothersome enough to seek medical treatment.
Severe chronic scrotal pain is pain lasting more than six (6) months after a vasectomy procedure and is reported as being severe enough to impact quality of life and requires additional treatment. The chance of developing chronic pain after vasectomy is estimated to be less than 9 out of every 1000 patients (<0.9%).
For more information: Chronic Scrotal Pain Syndrome.
Impaired testicular blood flow to either testicle could occur as a result of the vasectomy procedure. Despite numerous blood vessels supplying each testicle, a vasectomy procedure could impair blood flow to either testicle and this could cause atrophy (size reduction) of a testicle or, if severe enough, result in loss of the testicle. This is estimated to occur in 1 out of every 10,000 patients (<0.01%).
For more information about impaired testicular blood flow.
Allergy or adverse reaction to an anesthetic or medication can occur with any of the medications used or taken by a patient during or after a vasectomy procedure. This is an uncommon risk with vasectomy.
Emotional reactions that could interfere with normal sexual function and inter-personal relationships are possible after vasectomy. Reactions severe enough to impact sexual function after vasectomy are uncommon.
For more information about emotional reactions after vasectomy.
Vasectomy: Overall risks
Overall it is estimated that less than 10% of men will have a vasectomy complication. Most of these complications (tenderness and discomfort) are minimal and will quickly resolve. Some complications are severe and may require additional treatment. Although severe complications can occur they occur very infrequently. Most vasectomy complications are mild and will resolve with time.
Benefits of vasectomy
The main benefit of vasectomy is highly reliable permanent birth control and prevention of unintended pregnancy. These benefits can easily be obtained with a simple surgical procedure in less than 15 minutes within a doctor’s office under local anesthesia. Vasectomy allows men control over their reproduction and allows men not to be reliant upon their female partners compliance with birth control.
Vasectomy also provides benefits to the female partner as a very effective form of birth control that allows them to avoid the risks associated with female sterilization. Although male and female sterilization are equally effective and safe, the complications associated with female sterilization are often more serious.
Female sterilization is often an intra-abdominal procedure performed under general anesthesia. Anesthesia risk and risk of injury to internal abdominal organs can occur with female sterilization procedures. Failure of female sterilization can result in unintended pregnancy. Pregnancies from female sterilization failure can be serious and life-threatening ectopic (tubal) pregnancies.