There are a couple of reasons why a man who has had a vasectomy might want to reverse it. The main reason behind most vasectomy reversal surgeries is to restore a man's fertility so he can get his partner pregnant.
While vasectomy is considered a permanent method of birth control, there are times when a man may wish to reverse a vasectomy procedure in order to have children. A man may want to have another child after the loss of a child, after a second marriage, or after his financial situation improves enough to be able to afford the cost of raising a child.
A small number of men experience testicular pain after a vasectomy and, in these cases, vasectomy reversal might help relieve that pain.
All about Vasectomy Reversal
Vasectomy reversal is a surgical procedure that restores a man's fertility. During a vasectomy, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles (vas deferens) are severed to make a man sterile. Reversing the procedure requires a delicate microsurgery in which an urologist reconnects the vas deferens to allow sperm to once again enter the semen, making it possible for a man to get his partner pregnant.
Vasectomy reversal is usually done as an outpatient procedure (you won’t need to stay overnight), either in a hospital or a surgery center. Typically, it is done while a patient is under general anesthesia, so as to minimize movement during this very precise surgery.
Risks of Vasectomy Reversal
Some possible complications of a vasectomy reversal are rare, but may include:
- bleeding inside the scrotum that causes painful swelling
- buildup of fluid around the testicle (hydrocele)
- chronic pain
- infection in the area where the scrotum was cut
- leaking of sperm into the scrotum, which causes inflammation (sperm granuloma)
Preparing for the Vasectomy Reversal Procedure
To prepare for a vasectomy reversal, you will need to stop taking medications that cause blood-thinning, at least one week before the procedure. Many drugs, including over-the-counter pain killers (such as ibuprofen and aspirin) and supplements (such as fish oil and vitamin E); can increase the risk of bleeding.
You should also bring supportive underwear or a jockstrap to wear after your surgery, and make sure you have someone else available to drive you home.
Vasectomy Reversal: What to Expect
Vasectomy reversal is a more difficult procedure than vasectomy, and usually takes anywhere from two to four hours to complete. During the surgery, the doctor will:
- Make a small incision on the bottom side of the scrotum to expose the testicle and the scarred ends of the vas deferens
- Check for sperm by cutting open the vas deferens and collecting fluid from inside
- If sperm are in the fluid, reattach the cut ends of the vas deferens (known as a vasovasostomy)
- If no sperm are present, the doctor may connect the vas deferens to the epididymis, a tube on the underside of the testicle where the sperm mature (vasoepididymostomy)
After the Vasectomy Reversal Procedure
Recovery from a vasectomy reversal tends to be relatively fast. Patients can go home the same day, but should arrange for someone else to drive them.
After surgery, the incisions on the scrotum are covered with bandages, so a jockstrap or supportive underwear should be worn to support the testicles and keep the bandages in place.
The surgical area must remain dry for the first two days (no bathing or swimming), and bandages can be removed after a few days. But the jockstrap should be worn for several weeks, except when showering.
Pain after a vasectomy reversal usually isn't severe, and should only last a few days to a week--if it's particularly bad, prescription painkillers can help. Only one-quarter of men experience more pain from the reversal than from the original vasectomy procedure. There may also be some bruising, but that should fade within two weeks.
Patients can resume their normal routines within a week after the procedure, although they should avoid heavy physical activity—like lifting, working out, or lots of walking or driving—for at least three weeks. They can resume sexual activity in two to three weeks.
Success of Vasectomy Reversal
Most vasectomies can be reversed. The procedure's success is measured by the return of sperm to the ejaculate, and a man's success in getting his partner pregnant. Many factors affect the success of a vasectomy reversal. One of the biggest is the amount of time that has passed between the vasectomy and reversal. The longer you wait, the less likely it is that the procedure will enable you to get your partner pregnant. This is because more time makes it more likely that scar tissue has built up in the vas deferens, making it harder to reconnect.
After a vasectomy reversal, sperm are usually detectable in the semen within a few months, but it can sometimes take up to 15 months for them to show up. Within two years, over half of all vasectomy reversals lead to pregnancy. Other factors that can affect success include the quality of the original surgery, as well the age of a man's partner and her fertility.