How Common Is Vasectomy Failure?

As a method of contraception, vasectomy is on a par with the Pill, with its less than 1 in 100 chance of failure. Unfortunately, if a couple are not properly informed, they may miss important information about how best to manage their contraception around the time of the procedure.

Reasons for vasectomy failure

1. Vasectomy doesn’t take effect immediately as there may be sperm in the reproductive tract for several weeks after the surgery. It’s vital that other forms of birth control are used during this time. A semen sample taken around 6 to 8 weeks afterwards can detect the presence or absence of sperm, moving or not moving, dead or alive.

2. In some cases, vasectomy failure is due to a technical error, but in most cases it is due to recanalization, which refers to the spontaneous reconnection of the cut ends of the vas. Recanalization can be due to sperm granuloma which are tiny balls of debris that form from a combination of sperm, scar tissue and white blood cells where the incision was made. The cells that line the inside of the vas deferens grow through the scar tissue and create a new channel through which the sperm are now able to move. Some surgeons leave a gap between the two cut ends in order to reduce the risk of recanalization.

The rate of vasectomy failure is very low, estimated at between 0.5% and 1%. The success or failure depends on the doctors’ skill and experience the method used to block the tubes. This is why testing semen samples is essential.

You can actually interview potential doctors about their success and complication rates before deciding on who should perform the vasectomy for you. In rare cases, if persistent live sperm are shown to be present in semen checks following your vasectomy, the procedure will have to be repeated.

Once you have had your vasectomy, you should organize a follow-up examination for 12 months after your procedure to ensure that there are no new or residual sperm. Doctors highly recommend this follow-up check, yet one study revealed that only 3% actually took their advice.

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