Risks and benefits of vasectomy

How does it compare to other contraceptive methods for risks/benefits?

No contraceptive method is totally risk free. Maybe not having sex is the exception – and I guess someone’s done research into the harmful practice of sexual abstinence! This comparative table list the risks and benefits of the various contraceptive and sterilization methods. For many of us vasectomy represents the least risk alternative.

What are the common problems?

Apart from bruising, swelling and being uncomfortable for a couple of days the most common problem is post-procedure infection, and this is usually made much worse by our reluctance to go to the doctor. Your doctor should discuss with you what is normal and what isn’t and how to get treatment if necessary.

Remember that most vasectomies are done on a Thursday or Friday, so you need to know how to get treated or advice over the weekend if necessary. We have a page that discusses the general risks associated with vasectomy, the incidence and treatment options.

I’ve heard there is a risk of prostate cancer if you have a vasectomy?

Early studies expressed concern there may be an increased incidence risk due to higher levels of testosterone in vasectomised men later in life. More recent, and more comprehensive studies found this not to be the case. These more recent studies found that men who had vasectomies were more likely to look after their general health and consequently more likely to get themselves checked for prostate cancer, therefore prostate cancer was more likely to be detected.

If you are reading the medical journal extracts on this topic (or any other topic) always look at the study’s methodology. You would imagine that any study into vasectomy and prostate cancer would check that it’s subjects had actually had a vasectomy, and what their prostate cancer status is by checking their medical records. However, you’d be wrong! A lot of medical research is done WITHOUT reference to medical records by means of a postal questionnaire, so these two basic, mandatory facts are NOT ascertained by a fair amount of research – some of it major.

What short term problems may happen?

Swelling and bruising can last a few weeks, also blood in the ejaculate can happen. Sperm Granuloma’s (lumps in the scrotum due to backed-up sperm) can happen, and usually disappear before the end of a year. Of course you should discuss these issues with your doctor. We have a page of links listing short term problems, incidence and treatment.

What are the long term problems?

The subject of long term complications of vasectomy have been debated for many years. There have been a fair few long term studies done to ascertain if there is any connection between vasectomy, and various problems. Research is still ongoing. The vast majority of research indicates no links between vasectomy and a whole list of problems.

A small percentage of men do suffer what is know as “Post Vasectomy Pain syndrome” (PVP). This is a collective title for any long term problem relating to vasectomy – not a disease or syndrome in it’s own right. The percentage will vary widely depending on what web article or study you are reading. Also, the definition of PVP varies between studies/articles. Some studies/articles include the normal slight bruising or swelling that occurs in the statistics, some don’t. The accepted definition is where problems remain un-resolved after a period of three months or more. Responsible research will adhere to this accepted definition.

The advice from the newsgroup discusses the issue and we have a page of links that offer further information on the causes, incidence and treatment of PVP.

A study was published in June 2003 called “Testicular pain following vasectomy: A review of post vasectomy pain syndrome” by Christiansen & Sandlow. The article is available free of charge. The article describes what happens to our reproductive system post-vasectomy and discusses causes and treatment of the condition, and is definitely recommended reading for all.

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