Half-a-million men undergo a vasectomy procedure every year which causes them to be sterile. Although it’s a simple surgery, some men worry about pain. Is a vasectomy painful?
More than half a million men undergo a common surgical procedure each year called a vasectomy, which makes them permanently sterile and unable to conceive. There is a procedure that can reverse the effects of a vasectomy, but it only restores fertility in about half of cases. Some men hesitate to get a vasectomy because of concerns about pain. Is a vasectomy painful?
Is a Vasectomy Painful: How is This Procedure Done?
A vasectomy procedure involves severing the portion of the male anatomy known as the vas deferentia. Normally, these tubes carry sperm produced in the testicles to the penis. Along the way, sperm is mixed with seminal fluid from the prostate and seminal vesicle before it becomes part of the ejaculate.
During a vasectomy procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions in the scrotum, which allows access to the vas deferentia on each side. The tubes are then tied, cauterized, or clamped to prevent sperm from reaching the penis. The effects of the procedure aren’t immediate. Some residual sperm can remain below the area that was tied off or cauterized.
Because of this residual sperm, doctors recommend that couples use birth control after a vasectomy procedure until a man has had between ten and twenty ejaculations – to eliminate the stragglers. Then, a sample of seminal fluid can be examined under the microscope to make sure no sperm are left that could lead to a surprise pregnancy.
Is a Vasectomy Painful?
A vascectomy procedure is considered to be a minor one – but even minor surgical procedures aren’t without some discomfort. Usually, local anesthesia is used to numb up the scrotal area where the incisions are made. The injection of the local anesthestic may sting a little, but once it takes effect, most men only experience a pulling sensation during the procedure. Some doctors offer sedation to men who are nervous about the prospect of surgery.
After a vasectomy, the area may be a bit sore, once the anesthetic wears off, but this can usually be relieved with an ice pack. Most men recover completely in a few days.
Post-Vasectomy Pain Syndrome
Although the vasectomy procedure itself isn’t particularly painful, there is a condition called post-vasectomy pain syndrome that affects some men after a vasectomy. A man unfortunate enough to have this condition can experience chronic pain in the scrotum, pain during intercourse or ejaculation, or tenderness in the testicles for an indefinite period of time.
It’s unclear how many men actually experience this syndrome, but some studies say it’s as high as a third. This type of pain may be difficult to treat, and some men have resorted to a vasectomy reversal to try to relieve the discomfort. This helps in around seventy-percent of cases.
The Bottom Line?
The vasectomy procedure itself isn’t usually painful, although all surgical procedures involve some discomfort. There is the possibility of experiencing longer term pain after the procedure if post-vasectomy pain syndrome becomes a problem. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about this.
British Journal of Urology. 1992;69:188-191.
Journal of Urology. 164 (6): 1939–42.