Vasectomy reversal is an option for men who wish to have children after a vasectomy.
Over the years, vasectomies have become one of the most popular, effective, and safe methods of contraception. As a result, millions of men have chosen this option for permanent birth control. Sometimes, life circumstances change and men decide they would like to become fathers again, or for the first time. When this happens, a vasectomy reversal is an option that can be discussed with an urologist.
It is not uncommon for men who have had a vasectomy, to change their mind about having children. Sometimes, their personal situation changes through divorce, the loss of a spouse, or remarriage. Fortunately, vasectomy reversal is one option that can be successful under certain conditions. The second option is sperm retrieval – taking sperm from the husband to fertilize an egg in a laboratory setting.
What is a vasectomy reversal?
During a vasectomy, the vas deferens is severed to stop the passage of sperm into the ejaculate. In simple terms, a vasectomy reversal is the reconnection of the vas deferens in an attempt to allow the passage of sperm. The correct medical term for vasectomy reversal is vasovasostomy.
During the procedure, an incision is made in the scrotum and the two previously cut ends of the vas deferens are located. The urologist will then cut a small portion off the ends of the vas deferens to make sure they are open. Using microsurgical techniques, the physician reconnects the vas deferens to create a passageway for semen to be ejaculated at orgasm.
Chances for success with vasectomy reversal
The vasovasostomy procedure has a greater chance of success if the patient’s vasectomy was performed within the last ten years. In reality, disconnecting the vas deferens is much easier than reconnecting it. Vasectomy reversal is more time-intensive and complex than a regular vasectomy. This procedure normally takes between two to three hours to complete, compared to a 30 minute vasectomy. It is also performed using general anesthesia in a hospital or surgical center.
During surgery, the urologist will assess the condition of the tissue to determine the chance of success. Additionally, the surgeon will evaluate the quality of fluid coming from the vas end, at the vasectomy site, to see if sperm is present. If the vasectomy was performed within three years of the reversal, the statistical likelihood of reopening a vas channel and finding sperm is about 80-90%, with a subsequent pregnancy rate of 50-75%.
On occasion, the distal end of the vas deferens must be connected to the epididymis. This situation generally occurs when a very large portion of the vas deferens has been removed. This procedure, called a vasoepididymostomy, requires more time to perform, and pregnancy rates are greatly reduced. In either case, there are no guarantees that a vasectomy reversal will be successful.
Risks and complications
With any medical procedure, there are risks and potential complications. These will be discussed with the patient during his consultation with the urologist. The risks following a vasectomy reversal can include:
- Pain and discomfort that normally decreases within a few days.
- Infection – which can include fever, chills, drainage, and pain from the incision site.
- Internal bleeding of the scrotum.
- Forming a lump at the incision site.
- Failure of the procedure.
If the patient is concerned about any of these complications, or if pain is intense and extends over an abnormal period of time, they should contact their urologist.
If you have had a vasectomy and would like to consider having more children, schedule a consultation with one of our urologists at the location nearest you.