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What are the surgical complications and side effects following a vasectomy?

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Updated May 29, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: What are the surgical complications and side effects following a vasectomy?
Answer: As with any surgical procedure, a vasectomy can carry some risk of side effects. Major complications, however, are rare. Here's a look at some potential side effects of vasectomies.
  • Pain: Any pain or discomfort should stop after about a week. Most pain will respond well to mild analgesics. Chronic pain is experienced by some men.

  • Infection: A small amount of redness, bruising and swelling is normal. If you develop a fever, or the swelling is not going down, increases, or becomes very painful, seek medical attention.

  • Granulomas: These benign (non-cancerous) lumps may develop as a result of leakage of sperm from the cut end of the vas deferens into the scrotal tissues, resulting in an inflammatory reaction. This lump may be painful or sensitive to touch or pressure and is generally treated with anti-inflammatory agents. In a very small number of cases, granulomas can cause more serious complications, and occasionally, reversal of the vasectomy may be attempted to try to resolve this problem.

  • Epididymitis: This condition occurs when inflammation at the site of the vasectomy causes swelling of the epididymis (the tightly-coiled tube connecting the efferent ducts from the rear of each testicle to its vas deferens). Swelling should subside within about one week.

  • Abscesses: These are rare, but are the result of infection picked up during the operation or afterwards.

  • Erectile dysfunction or decreased sexual desire: Some men may experience impotence, premature ejaculation, painful intercourse, or a change in their sex drive.

A possible link between vasectomy and an increased risk of prostate cancer after 20 or more years has been studied, and the results are inconclusive. If there is an increased risk of prostate cancer after vasectomy, the magnitude of the increase appears to be quite small.

Pregnancy Following a Vasectomy

In some rare cases, men who had vasectomies have been able to get a woman pregnant. The causes include a failure in the surgical procedure, not using additional contraceptive methods in the three months following the procedure, or complications following the vasectomy.

The U.S. Agency for International Development states that the failure rate for vasectomies is from 0.2% to 0.4% up to as high as 3-5%. The Centers for Disease Control estimate there is a probability of failure in 11 per 1,000 procedures over two years. Half of the failures occurred in the first three months after the vasectomy. No failures occurred after 72 weeks.

Medically reviewed on 1/20/2012

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