Vasectomies are a proven, safe form of contraceptive used by ~50million men worldwide. Many men opt to undergo the procedure due to its low cost, quick turnaround and the fact that it is minimally invasive.
However, a small number of men (3 – 6%) eventually undergo what is known as a vasectomy reversal (VR). The reason for a reversal differs from person to person, but generally it boils down to:
- A desire for more children
- A rare condition known as post-vasectomy pain syndrome
If you are considering a vasectomy, or you have had a vasectomy performed and you are weighing up the costs of a reversal, this article should help you make an informed decision.
Before we begin we must note that a vasectomy reversal is never guaranteed to work; before you consider a vasectomy we recommend that you consider it a permanent procedure, so as to avoid disappointment down the track.
Factors that influence the success rate of a vasectomy reversal
Your surgeon’s experience
There are a number of factors that influence the success of a VR. Some of them are within your sphere of control and others are not. For example, studies have shown that the experience of your surgeon can have a significant impact on the outcomes of your procedure.
Typically, the success rate of an experienced surgeon (more than 15 procedures per year) is ~87%, compared to 56% for those with less experience.
Time elapsed since procedure
The time since your vasectomy was performed (sometimes referred to as the ‘obstructive interval’ can also have an impact on the success of a reversal. The ‘fresher’ your vasectomy is, the higher chance you have of the reversal being successful.
If your vasectomy was performed less than five years ago the chance of a success sits at ~89%. Conversely, if the vasectomy was performed more than 10 years ago, that percentage drops down to 75%.
Despite this evidence, there is emerging research that indicates that the obstructive interval is becoming less of a mitigating factor, as a consequence of improved surgical techniques.
At the end of the day, the objective of a vasectomy reversal is usually to have children with a new or existing partner.
If you have received a vasectomy, it is likely that you are already fertile. Otherwise, why would you have the procedure performed in the first place?
With this assumption in place, it is your partner’s fertility that becomes an important factor when weighing up the odds of successfully conceiving a child after VR. If you have decided to have children with your existing partner, with whom you have conceived a child previously, your success rate sits at around 76%.
That number drops significantly if the vasectomy was motivated by divorce and an attempt to conceive with a new partner. In these circumstances, research suggests that your likelihood of success is around 50%.
If you do decide to opt for a vasectomy reversal there are a number of factors that improve your chance of success. Those factors include:
- Surgeon’s experience
- Time elapsed since your vasectomy
- Partner fertility
We recommend that if you are undergoing a vasectomy to consider it a permanent procedure. While the chances of a successful reversal are high under the right conditions, it is better to not assume that the procedure will work so as to avoid disappointment down the track.
Please note: Hoppers Lane GP do not offer vasectomy reversals
This article was reviewed by Dr Suman Musku
A UK-trained enthusiastic GP with 14 years’ experience. Dr Suman Musku has been working as a GP for several years and enjoys being a Generalist. His Membership in surgery and hospital rotations has allowed him to competently practice and manage Chronic Disease conditions and surgical problems.His clinical interests include men’s health (vasectomies), dermatology and minor surgical procedures. Dr Suman has a passion towards teaching and has students from Melbourne Medical School. He holds high regards to communication skills and is appreciative of social/psychological factors involved in a patient’s life. “My aim is to strive towards providing exceptional standard of care to my patients”.
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