While families celebrate Father’s Day this month, you may be feeling the powerful surge of paternal love. As you watch kids laugh in the sunshine or round the bases in Little League practice, your gut is telling you, you and your partner are ready for a child. But there’s one big thing standing in your way: your vasectomy.

Dr. Michael Degon

Dr. Michael Degon, of Novant Health Urology - Wilmington, has performed hundreds of vasectomies. He said that about 5% of the 500,000 men who undergo a vasectomy in the U.S. each year will change their mind and decide they want to have a child. For these men and their partners, vasectomy reversal is an option to restore fertility.

Thinking about undergoing a vasectomy reversal to expand your family? Here he answers frequently asked questions about the procedure.

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If a vasectomy is permanent, how can it be reversed?

A vasectomy involves cutting and sealing the tubes that carry sperm, the vas deferens. Degon said when he counsels patients prior to a vasectomy, he advises that they should “plan for it to be a permanent procedure.”

In cases where circumstances change and a man would like to become fertile again, a doctor can perform a vasectomy reversal, surgically reattaching the vas deferens tubes to allow sperm to travel into the semen once again. There are two different types of vasectomy reversal procedures:

  • Vasovasostomy (vas-o-vay-ZOS-tuh-me) procedures account for most vasectomy reversals, Degon explained. During a vasovasostomy, the doctor will make an incision in the vas deferens tube on either side, then sew the sides back together. “This has a 90%-plus success rate. It’s pretty effective,” Degon said.
  • Vasoepididymostomy (vas-o-ep-ih-did-ih-MOS-tuh-me) is what Degon describes as “a much more detailed procedure” because it involves connecting the vas deferens to the epididymis, a structure located on the back of the testicles that holds sperm. This procedure is about 60% effective.

What factors determine which surgery I need and how successful a vasectomy reversal will be?

The two factors that determine whether a vasectomy reversal will be effective are age and length of time since the vasectomy, Degon said.

“If it’s only been a couple of years since the vasectomy, it’s usually pretty straightforward. If it’s been a long time since the vasectomy, over a decade or so, then it gets a lot more tricky,” he said.

What happens after 10-plus years, Degon continued, is that over time, scar tissue builds up between the vasectomy site and the epididymis, requiring the more complex vasoepididymostomy surgery to allow sperm to reach the vas deferens. So while the latter surgery has a lower success rate by the numbers, it is sometimes the necessary avenue to ensure the vasectomy reversal is correctly completed.

During a consultation, Degon discusses both procedures. While one or the other might be more likely prior to surgery, he makes the decision at the time of surgery based on the fluid inside the vas deferens.

How much downtime should I plan for a vasectomy reversal?

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