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Doctor K: Vasectomies permanent birth control

Anthony L. Komaroff Universal Uclick

DEAR DOCTOR K: My wife and I don’t want any more children, so I’ve scheduled a vasectomy. What will happen during the procedure?

DEAR READER: A vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure that will make you unable to father any more children.

The sperm that is ejaculated during sex travels through two tubes, one on either side of the scrotum, the sac that contains the testicles. Each tube is called the vas deferens. The tubes run from the testicles (where sperm is formed) to a storage area where the sperm are mixed with semen. That storage area then empties into the penis. A vasectomy cuts or blocks the vas deferens. As a result, no sperm reach the storage area, and none is ejaculated.

Vasectomies are usually done as an outpatient procedure. The procedure requires no preparation on your part. Your doctor will give you a local anesthetic to numb your scrotum.

In a traditional vasectomy, the surgeon uses a scalpel to make one or two small cuts in the skin of your scrotum. Once the vas deferens are seen, they will be cut. The cut ends of the vas deferens tubes may be tied, burned shut with a hot tool or blocked with surgical clips. (Just in case this sounds painful, remember that your scrotum is numbed – you won’t feel anything.) The doctor then will close the small surgical cuts with stitches.

The entire procedure takes only 15 to 30 minutes. The reported success rates are 98 percent – very good, but not perfect.

After your vasectomy, you may experience some bruising and mild discomfort. This can be relieved with an athletic support, an ice pack and nonprescription pain medication.

Keep in mind that a vasectomy is intended to be permanent birth control. Special surgery can reverse a vasectomy, but success cannot be guaranteed.

Dr. Komaroff is a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School. Go to his website to send questions and get additional information:
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