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Vasectomy: Purpose, Advantages & Disadvantages

Vasectomy: Purpose, Advantages & Disadvantages
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  • 1:30 Procedure
  • 2:35 No Scalpel Vasectomy
  • 4:33 Effects
  • 6:36 Risks
  • 7:35 Reversal
  • 9:39 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Heather Adewale

Heather has taught reproductive biology and has researched neuro, repro and endocrinology. She has a PhD in Zoology/Biology.

You may have heard of a guy 'getting snipped,' a procedure otherwise known as a vasectomy. What this entails may be simpler than you think. Learn about the procedure, effects and reversal options in this lesson on the vasectomy.

Vasectomy

Ah, vasectomy. Getting snipped. That procedure dreaded by many a man. But, not to worry! Here we hope to alleviate some of your or your partner's concerns by telling you a little bit about just what getting a vasectomy does and does not entail.

First off, let's start with the definition. A vasectomy is a surgical procedure where the vas deferens are cut, preventing the passage of sperm from the testes to the penis. This is considered to be a permanent form of birth control and, other than the use of condoms, is one of the only forms of birth control currently available to guys.

Now, I know you guys out there may have a lot of questions, like 'Will it affect my sex drive?' or 'Will I still make testosterone?' But, don't worry. A vasectomy doesn't prevent you from having sex or even prevent your testes from making testosterone. In fact, you can still make sperm after a vasectomy! The only difference is that the sperm doesn't leave the testicles.

Okay, so hopefully I've alleviated some of your concerns, and, if you have more questions, maybe they will be answered as we talk about the actual procedure and some of the risks involved.

In a vasectomy, both vas deferens are cut or clipped.
Vas Deferens Cut or Clipped

Procedure

A vasectomy is a fairly simple procedure, as far as surgeries go. It doesn't even require general anesthesia. However, since most patients are a little anxious, they are usually given medication to make them a little more relaxed or sleepy.

  1. First, the surgical area is cleaned and shaved, that would be the scrotal area.
  2. Next, the doctor locates the vas deferens connected to each testicle.
  3. Once each vas deferens is located, a local anesthetic is applied.
  4. The doctor then makes one or two small incisions in the scrotal tissue.
  5. Each vas deferens is located through the incision and pulled out slightly.
  6. Once visible, the doctor then has two choices: (a) he or she can cut each vas deferens in half, or (b) can simply close the vas deferens with a clip. In this method, the vas deferens is not cut or sutured. Rather, it is clamped shut to prevent sperm passage. It's kind of like clamping a hose to stop water flow. But, be aware, some studies indicate that, while this may be a simpler procedure, this is not as effective as cutting the vas deferens.
  7. If the vas deferens are cut, next, the ends are closed off (either through the use of a clamp or a tie) and can be cauterized to seal them.
  8. And, that's it! Now, the clip or the cut vas deferens are placed back into the scrotum. The external incision is stitched up and our patient is on the road to recovery.

See, it's quite simple, isn't it? Not too invasive, quick - about 20-30 minutes - and doesn't even require the patient to check into the hospital. This procedure can be performed at a clinic or doctor's office, and recovery only takes about a few days to a week.

No Scalpel Vasectomy

In a no scalpel vasectomy, a small puncture is used to pull the vas deferens through.
No Scalpel Vasectomy

And, if the thought of even those tiny incisions is too much for you, there is also the option of another procedure called the no scalpel vasectomy. In this procedure, there is no knife or cutting incisions. Instead, the doctor uses a small puncture, sort of like the kind made when getting a piercing, or punching a hole in a piece of paper, but a little larger, about a centimeter wide. The puncture bypasses the cutting of blood vessels and nerves, which reduces the possible side effects of bleeding, pain and infection.

This tiny puncture is stretched just wide enough to pull the vas deferens through. Then, they are cut and sealed - just like a normal vasectomy - or they can be clipped. The vas deferens are then placed back inside, and the puncture is closed. Quick and easy! With minimal side effects, this procedure is becoming increasingly popular.

Effects

So, now that we know what happens during a vasectomy, let's look at the effects of a vasectomy, and maybe some of those unanswered questions you guys may still have will be covered.

The purpose and main effect of a vasectomy is to prevent sperm passage to the penis, and thus prevent the ability to get a woman pregnant. Now that the vas deferens are cut, the sperm have no way of traveling from the testicle, up to the penis, and, therefore, do not exit the male's reproductive tract.

So, now what about all the other functions of the male's reproductive tract? You may be wondering if they still work, and the answer is yes. You see, blocking sperm passage doesn't prevent other things, like testosterone production or semen production, from occurring. It also doesn't interfere with erectile tissue function.

Sperm is only about five percent of semen; the rest is secreted by the male accessory glands.
Accessory Glands

All of these are controlled by other processes in the body, none of which are affected by cutting the vas deferens. Testosterone is under the influence of cells within the testes, which still function properly. Erection is under the control of nerve stimulation and blood flow, and seminal fluid and other components of semen are secreted by the male accessory glands. You see, sperm actually only makes up about five percent of the semen that is released during ejaculation. The rest comes from the seminal vesicles, the prostate, and the bulbo-urethral glands.

So, even though the semen will no longer contain sperm, it will still be produced and ejaculation will still occur after a vasectomy. In fact, after recovery, males probably won't even notice a difference in reproductive function between pre-vasectomy and post-vasectomy.

Risks

Now, like most surgical procedures, there are some minor risks involved. The most common risk is inflammation and infection at the incision sites, but these can be treated with medications. Occasionally, however, in some cases, sperm from the vas deferens can leak into the surrounding tissue and form a small lump on the side of the vas deferens. This often will dissolve on its own, with rest and medication, or can be surgically removed.

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