Reversing the Irreversible: Vasectomy Reversal

Every year, about 500,000 men in the US get a vasectomy because they’re sure they don’t want any more (or simply any) children. It’s a fairly simple procedure that cuts the 2 vas deferens, which are the tubes through which sperm travel from the testicles to the prostate. Cutting the vas doesn’t change anything about orgasm or ejaculation, it just ensures that no sperm are in a man’s semen, hence he can’t father children.

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Every year, about 500,000 men in the US get a vasectomy because they’re sure they don’t want any more (or simply any) children. It’s a fairly simple procedure that cuts the 2 vas deferens, which are the tubes through which sperm travel from the testicles to the prostate. Cutting the vas doesn’t change anything about orgasm or ejaculation, it just ensures that no sperm are in a man’s semen, hence he can’t father children.


Vasectomy is a great option for guys because it eliminates the hassle and cost of contraceptives—it allows men (and their partners) to have sex naturally, without interruption or worry about the possibility of pregnancy.


But, of course, life happens. Couples split up. Partners die. Children die. And so guys can change their mind about children. A significant part of my practice, in fact, is helping guys with vasectomies have kids. 


Vasectomies used to be difficult to reverse. The vas deferens are very small and surgically reconnecting them used to be tough. It still takes skill, but modern microsurgical techniques now make vasectomy reversal totally feasible. Between 85% and 97% of guys undergoing the most common type of vasectomy reversal will have sperm in their semen again (following a period of recovery). And about half of couples in which the guy has had this kind of vasectomy will achieve a pregnancy.


Of course, these are averages. The less time has elapsed since a guy’s vasectomy, the better his the chances of success. The pregnancy rate is 76% for guys whose vasectomy was 3 years or less before their reversal, but only 30% for guys whose vasectomy was 15 or more years before the reversal. 


Still, these are very good figures and far better than men could expect decades ago when vasectomy was usually considered to be a permanent form of contraception. 

There’s a lot more to say on this subject, and I’ve written a guide for patients that explains the details of vasectomy reversal for anybody who’s interested. The guide is available free on my website.

Blog written by Harry Fisch, MD
Dr. Fisch is the director of the Male Reproductive Center in New York City. He is a board-certified urologist and microsurgeon...