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Vasectomy Risks, Complications, and Side Effects

All surgeries carry some risk, but complications from vasectomy tend to be rare, minor, and seldom require intensive medical treatment. Below, find some of the most common risks and side effects for a vasectomy.

If you have concerns or want more information about the possible risks, complications, and long-term effects of a vasectomy, talk to your doctor.

Allergic Reaction - Rarely, some men may experience itching and hives, as the result of an allergic reaction to the local anesthetic.

Antibodies - After a vasectomy, sperm produced in the testicles are absorbed by the body. This process may cause the immune system to produce antibodies to the sperm. These "anti-sperm antibodies" are mostly harmless, but they can affect the success of a later vasectomy reversal. (They have not, however, been linked to other immune-related diseases. For more information, see "Is there a link between vasectomy and disease?")

Bruising - Bruising may occur on the skin of the scrotum or the penis. This is a normal side effect of a vasectomy, and the bruises should be gone after about two weeks.

Chronic Scrotal Pain - Fifteen to 19 percent of men who have had a vasectomy experience pain that lasts more than three months and interferes with daily activities. This type of pain, however, can also have causes unrelated to the vasectomy—such as inflammation of the epididymis, trauma, or twisting of the testicle (torsion).

Epididymitis - One of the more common post-vasectomy complications, occurring in up to 6 percent of vasectomies, epididymitis is caused by inflammation and swelling of the epididymal tube. Heat and anti-inflammatory medications (alone or combined with antibiotics) can usually clear it up within a week.

Hematoma - Pooling of blood within the tissue occurs in up to 29 percent of all vasectomy patients. It usually starts within the first week after the procedure, and can cause pain or swelling. While it is rarely serious, you should report any bleeding to your doctor.

Infection - Infections occur in about 3.5 percent of vasectomy patients. These are usually minor and respond favorably to antibiotic treatment, antimicrobial creams, and hot baths. More serious infections are rare.

Postoperative Pain - Short-term pain after a vasectomy is normal and usually resolves within a day or two, although a slight ache can remain for a while longer. Surgeons usually recommend acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol) with or without codeine for the first 48 hours, since aspirin and ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) can cause bleeding.

Sexual Difficulties - A vasectomy should not affect your sex drive, or your ability to have erections or ejaculate. If you experience sexual difficulties after a vasectomy, contact your doctor. They may be a sign of either emotional or physical issues, including heart disease.

Sperm Granulomas - These small, usually painless lumps occur when sperm leak out of the vas and cause an inflammatory reaction. The resulting cluster of immune cells does not pose a danger and usually resolves over time. Granulomas do cause pain in a small number of men, typically about two to three weeks after the vasectomy.

References

Adams CE, Wald M. Risks and complications of vasectomy. Urol Clin North Am. 2009; 36(3):331-6.

Davis BE, Noble MJ, Weigel JW, Foret JD, Mebust WK. Analysis and management of chronic testicular pain. J Urol. 1990; 143(5):936-9.

Kendrick JS, Gonzales B, Huber DH, Grubb GS, Rubin GL. Complications of vasectomies in the United States. J Fam Pract. 1987 Sep;25(3):245-8.

Schwingl PJ, Guess HA. Safety and effectiveness of vasectomy. Fertil Steril. 2000 May;73(5):923-36.

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