Undoing the Permanent: Facts about a Vasectomy Reversal

At some time in the past, you made a permanent decision not to father any more children and had a vasectomy. Now, life circumstances have changed and you and your partner want to have a baby. What can you do about it? Vasectomy reversal surgery is a viable option to make you a dad again.

The Facts

There are about 600,000 vasectomies done every year in the U.S. Conversely, 5% of men seek a vasectomy reversal annually. There is no guarantee that fertility will be restored by undergoing vasectomy reversal surgery but, according to the American Urology Association, 75-99% of men do have sperm return to their semen and 30-75% of their female partners do become pregnant.

Vacsetomy Reversal Procedure

Vasectomy reversal surgery takes significantly longer to perform than the original vasectomy procedure. The outpatient surgery takes two to four hours and is done by an experienced urologist or men's health specialist. Either general anesthesia or local anesthesia with sedation will be administered. The surgery is done using the guidance of a strong surgical microscope to reattach the previously severed vas deferens or sperm ducts. Similar incisions to the vasectomy are made on the scrotum to expose the severed ends of the vas deferens. The tedious task of reattaching the ends takes patience and skill on the part of the surgeon.

After surgery, a dressing and jockstrap, to create pressure on the incisions, will be applied. Pain medication and intermittent ice packs to the scrotum will help control the discomfort and swelling. Most patients report that the pain after a vasectomy reversal is similar to what they experienced after the original vasectomy. The stitches will dissolve in about ten days.

What are the limitations after surgery? These are general guidelines. Check with your attending physician for specific instructions.

  • Keep incisions dry for at least two days; no shower or swimming.
  • Continue to wear a supportive jockstrap for several weeks.
  • Avoid sports, including golf and hiking, for at least one week
  • No heavy lifting, nothing more than 15 pounds, for about three weeks.
  • No sex or ejaculation for an average of two to four weeks.

The Results

A major factor in the success of a vasectomy reversal depends upon how long ago the original vasectomy was performed. The best odds for success are if it is reversed within three to ten years, according to the Mayo Clinic. The sooner it is reversed, the better the chances of achieving pregnancy. Overall, pregnancy rates are just over 50% after a vasectomy reversal but drop to 30% if more than ten years have passed since the original vasectomy.
Keep in mind that the surgical reversal results are not immediate. It can take several months for sperm to reappear in the semen. The Mayo Clinic reports that it can take about fifteen months to determine if vasectomy reversal surgery is successful. The best determination of success is pregnancy.