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Can A Vasectomy Be Reversed? Risks & Success Rates

Sure, you can reverse a vasectomy, but not without some risk. Here's what you need to know before going back under the knife.

The question of whether to reverse a vasectomy (a procedure known as a vasovasostomy) is a complicated one. Yes, it can be done. But there’s no guarantee of success, and complications often arise. Still, that hasn’t stopped approximately six to ten percent of American men who have successfully been snipped from consulting a doctor about reversing it. Everybody suffers from buyer’s remorse at some point, right?

Maybe you had one and are now regretting it. You want another kid, or at least the chance to try for one. If so, we spoke to Dr. Robert Mordkin, Chief of Urology and Director of Robotic Surgery at Virginia Hospital Center, to find out exactly what you need to know before going back under the knife.

The Success Rate Is Improving

Advances in microsurgery have made the procedure much less complicated than when it was first performed in 1971. In fact, one recent study of 1,469 men who underwent a vasovasostomy at five different institutions found that 86 percent of them had some level of patency (active sperm in their semen) in a postoperative analysis. 

How Long You Wait In Between Procedures Matters

The amount of time between a vasectomy and its reversal plays a huge part in how successful the procedure (and resultant pregnancy) will be. If you get a reversal within three years of your vasectomy, your chances for patency are 97 percent and pregnancy are 73 percent. Wait 15 years, however, and the percentages drop to 71 percent and 30 percent, respectively. 

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It’s Not Cheap

Where a vasectomy can take as little as 10 minutes, a vasovasostomy typically requires 2-3 hours to perform. It’s done under general anesthesia in an operating room and, as a result,  the costs are much higher ⏤ ranging anywhere from $2,000 to $25,000. Worse, insurance companies don’t cover it.

There Can Be Side Effects

Between 50-80 percent of men who have had a vasectomy develop anti-sperm antibodies that impair their little guys from moving around. As a result, they experience a lower rate of successful future pregnancies. If the antibodies are found in your sperm sample, your doctor will likely put you on a steroid while you’re trying to conceive in order to increase sperm mobility. 

Scar tissue from the initial procedure can also block the vas deferens, which is the tube initially cut in the vasectomy. This only occurs in 3-10 percent of all men and might require additional surgery to properly clear. Other risks, including postoperative hematomas, infections, and bleeding, occur in less than five percent of men and are easily remedied without long-term effects. The big takeaway, says Dr. Mordkin, is that “reversing a vasectomy should not cause issues. It should not affect feeling, libido, erections.”

There Are Other Options

If you’re serious about having another child but don’t want to undergo the surgery, you could always try in vitro. Your body doesn’t stop producing sperm after your vasectomy, and it can be withdrawn directly from your testicles in an outpatient procedure that causes minimal issues, save one. It’s very expensive and not usually covered by insurance. In fact, the latest studies show that it costs more than double that of a vasovasostomy with a 19-percent lower success rate of successful future pregnancy.