A vasectomy is a simple and straightforward procedure that involves cutting the two tubes – the vas deferens – that allow sperm to move from the testicles to the penis. It therefore stops sperm from entering the semen, the fluid that is excreted during orgasm. While the procedure is one of the most popular forms of family planning in the UK, there have been questions about its health implications.
It is estimated that one in ten men who have a vasectomy suffer long-term testicular pain, known as post-vasectomy pain. This pain can develop immediately after a vasectomy or many years after the procedure. It can range in severity from mild to excruciating and can be sporadic, developing after sporting activities or sex, or continuous.
While research into the exact causes of post-vasectomy pain is ongoing, it is thought that damage to nerves inside the testicles during surgery may play a role in the development of the condition. This can lead to inflammation and swelling of the surrounding nerves. The pain may also result from microscopic amounts of sperm leaking out of the vas deferens into the surrounding tissue. Sperm is an irritant, so this leakage can cause inflammation of these tissues.
For mild cases of post-vasectomy pain, conservative approaches can often be helpful. These include anti-inflammatory medication, scrotal support, and cold and heat therapy. For severe cases, a vasectomy reversal can be effective. According to data presented at the American Urological Association 2010 Annual Scientific Meeting, 75% of 45 vasectomy reversal patients experienced complete relief of post-vasectomy pain, 10% had greater than a 30% reduction in symptoms, and 10% had no change in the severity of their symptoms. Mr Harriss has found that 50% of his patients have a reduction in symptoms after having a vasectomy reversal for their vasectomy pain.
While a vasectomy reversal can be effective at relieving post-vasectomy pain, it can also be successful at restoring fertility. At The Vasectomy Reversal Centre, Mr. Harriss boasts the following success rates, based on the interval between the vasectomy and the vasectomy reversal:
• 98% for vasectomies performed three months to seven years ago
• 94% for eight to 14 years
• 84% for 15 to 20 years
• 50% for 21 years and over
This means that men who wish to undergo a vasectomy reversal to relieve post-vasectomy pain, but who do not wish to conceive a child, must use contraception following the procedure.