What you need to know about male vasectomy

A vasectomy is the surgical procedure for permanent male sterilisation. This short procedure is provided by the experienced doctors at some of our National Skin Cancer Centres around Australia - delivered in dedicated surgery theatres and supported by a team of nurses for your continued care.

If you are interested in getting a vasectomy, here is what you should know about the procedure.

How does a vasectomy work?

During ejaculation, sperm is combined with other fluids to make up the ejaculate. (The volume made up by the sperm is only one per cent and so there is no noticeable change in the volume of ejaculate after a vasectomy procedure.)

Some weeks after the procedure, the reserve of sperm in the seminal vesicles will gradually deplete and then infertility is achieved. The doctor will provide pathology forms for sample testing to be done eight weeks after the procedure. It takes this long for the reservoir of sperm to deplete.

Sex drive remains unaltered. The levels of male hormone (testosterone) are unaffected by the operation as this hormone is carried by the blood stream directly from the testis.

The procedure reliability is very good and the late failure rate (tubes spontaneously re-joining) is about 1 in 1,000.

What is involved in a vasectomy procedure?

There are two methods of performing a vasectomy: the traditional vasectomy method and the non-scalpel vasectomy method.

The traditional vasectomy method

In the traditional vasectomy method, the doctor will make a very small incision into the scrotum using a scalpel to cut the vas deferens. The incision site is stitched. You will remain awake throughout the procedure and receive pain relief via local anaesthetic. The stitches are dissolvable so you can expect them to disappear in about one week.

The non-scalpel vasectomy method

In the non-scalpel vasectomy method, two to three centimetres of tube are removed from each side. The top ends of the tubes are cauterised, and the bottom ends are left open. You will remain awake throughout the procedure and receive pain relief via local anaesthetic.

How long does the vasectomy procedure take?

Vasectomy procedures usually take about 10 to 30 minutes.

How do I know if the vasectomy has worked?

In about two months, you will send a semen sample to the pathology lab. You must use another form of contraception until confirmation of a zero sperm count on your semen analysis.

How much downtime is involved after a vasectomy?

Men generally tolerate the procedure very well and are surprised how little pain they experience. It is prudent to rest for the first 24 hours and then take things quietly for the next few days. You will need to plan for about three days off work. You should avoid strenuous physical activity for five days after your procedure, or longer if you are uncomfortable.

Some pain over these days is not unusual and you can use simple analgesia such as paracetamol or an ice pack for pain relief. Some swelling, bruising and pain is normal. Sexual activity can resume when you feel comfortable. Showering and normal bathing is fine.

You may drive yourself to and from the centre unless you are having medication for sedation, in which case you need a driver. Partners are welcome to sit in.

Can a vasectomy procedure be reversed?

You should consider a vasectomy as non-reversible as we cannot guarantee that an individual can undergo reversal successfully. In general, reversal is successful in the first 10 years after vasectomy, but the success rate drops after that. The cost of reversal is several thousand dollars. Our centres do not perform reversal procedures; you should ask your GP for a referral to see an appropriate surgeon.

Learn more about vasectomies here.

Written by National Skin Cancer Centres