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What is vasectomy?
A vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed as a method of birth control. It involves cutting the vas deferens (pronounced VAS DEF-uh-renz) in order to close off the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles (there is one vas deferens per testicle). If a man has a vasectomy, he can no longer get a woman pregnant.1 Sperm are made in the two testicles, which are inside the scrotum. Sperm is stored in a tube attached to each testicle called the epididymis (pronounced ep-i-DID-uh-mis). When a man ejaculates, the sperm travel from the epididymis, through the vas deferens, and then mix with seminal fluid to form semen. The semen then travels through the urethra (pronounced yoo-REE-thruh) and out the penis. Before a vasectomy, semen contains sperm and seminal fluid. After a vasectomy, sperm are no longer in the semen.2 The man's testicles will make less sperm over time, and his body will absorb any sperm that are made.3
How is a vasectomy done?
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A vasectomy is usually performed in the office of urologist, a doctor who specializes in the male urinary tract and reproductive system. In some cases, the urologist may decide to do a vasectomy in an outpatient surgery center or a hospital. This could be because of patient anxiety or because other procedures will be done at the same time.2
There are two ways to perform a vasectomy. In either case, the patient is awake during the procedure, but the urologist uses a local anesthetic to numb the scrotum.
With the conventional method, the doctor makes one or two small cuts in the scrotum to access the vas deferens. A small section of the vas deferens is cut out and then removed. The urologist may cauterize (seal with heat) the ends and then tie the ends with stitches. The doctor will then perform the same procedure on the other testicle, either through the same opening or through a second scrotal incision. For both testicles, when the vas deferens has been tied off, the doctor will use a few stitches or skin "glue" to close the opening(s) in the scrotum.
With the "no-scalpel" method, a small puncture hole is made on one side of the scrotum. The health care provider will find the vas deferens under the skin and pull it through the hole. The vas deferens is then cut and a small section is removed. The ends are either cauterized or tied off and then put back in place. The procedure is then performed on the other testicle. No stitches are needed with this method because the puncture holes are so small.1,3
After a vesctomy, most men go home the same day and fully recover in less than a week.
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