What are the health risks and benefits of a vasectomy? I want my husband to consider this option.

Vasectomy is a very simple, safe office procedure. A small opening is made in the scrotum. It can be made with a scalpel or a pointed end clamp. The latter is referred to as "no-scalpel vasectomy". Then, the vas deferens, the tubes that carry the sperm, are cut. A section is removed, then the end are tied, clamped, or sealed with heat, so the sperm no longer be carried from the testicles out the end of the penis. The procedure takes about 10-20 minutes and is done under local anesthesia.

Afterwards, patients usually wear a jock strap or briefs for support, put ice on the groin, and stay off their feet for a couple of days. Some swelling and bruising can be expected. Pain medication is often prescribed. If the man works a desk job, he can be back to work in a few days.

Complications are rare and minor. Excessive bleeding or infection are possible. Only about 1% develop testes pain, which usually does not last long and does not require treatment. Sometimes a painful lump develops from where the tubes were blocked This is called a sperm granuloma. It too resolves on its own in most cases. Rarely, antibiotics or repeat surgery will be needed.

There have been concerns raised about increased prostate cancer risk in men who have had vasectomies, but there is not conclusive proof. Links between vasectomy and heart disease and other diseases are also unproven and without substantial evidence.

While the man can resume having sex in about a week, he is not sterile immediately after the procedure. Alternate methods of birth control must be used until the sperm already produced at the time of the procedure has cleared the body. This typically takes 6-12 weeks. Post-procedure testing will determine when this has been accomplished.

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