- Don’t like those shoes you bought? You can return or exchange them.
- Was growing a stache a stupid decision? Shave it off.
- Regret getting that tattoo? Get it removed or covered up.
But some changes aren’t so simple. Like undoing a vasectomy.
Can you reverse a vasectomy? Sure, it’s possible. Out of the 500,000 men who get a vasectomy each year, 6 percent eventually choose to have a reversal surgery. But reconnecting the sperm pathway isn’t as simple as restoring a Wi-Fi connection.
A vasectomy reversal is a safe procedure. But getting unsnipped can come with a cost.
SHOULD YOU GET A VASECTOMY IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Before we get to the nuts and bolts of a reversal, it’s important to understand a vasectomy.
A vasectomy is a simple, outpatient surgery where a man’s vas deferens (tubes that carry the sperm) are severed so sperm can’t mix with semen for ejaculation. It’s considered a permanent form of birth control, with only a 0.4% failure rate.
That’s why before getting a vasectomy, you should be sure you don’t want any more kids. However, circumstances change. Most men choose to have a vasectomy reversal because they got snipped at a young age (under 30), they remarried after a divorce or death of their spouse, or they changed their minds about having kids.
UNDERSTANDING A VASECTOMY REVERSAL
While a vasectomy is a minor surgery, a reversal is considered a major surgery. Here are a few differences between the two:
- A vasectomy takes about 20 minutes to perform, but a reversal procedure ranges from 2-5 hours.
- A vasectomy costs less than $1,000 and is usually covered by insurance. Reversals can cost between $5,000 and $12,000 and aren’t typically covered by insurance.
- Both procedures have potential side effects, but reversals have more risks such as fluid buildup in the scrotum and injury to arteries and nerves.
- Vasectomy recovery takes a couple of days; reversal recovery is about a week.
There are generally two types of vasectomy reversal surgeries. The most common one is a vasovasostomy, in which the surgeon makes an incision in the scrotum close to where the vasectomy was performed and examines the vas deferens.
The surgeon removes fluid from the end of the vas to check if sperm is present. If there is sperm, the vas deferens ends are reconnected.
If sperm isn’t present, there’s likely a blockage in the epididymis and the surgeon will perform a vasoepididymostomy. It’s more complicated and involves connecting the tubes to the epididymis.
MEASURING THE SUCCESS OF VASECTOMY REVERSALS
The success of a vasectomy reversal is measured in two ways: patency and pregnancy.
Patency is successfully re-opening the vas deferens so ejaculation contains an adequate number of sperm. Pregnancy is, you guessed it, the guy successfully getting his partner pregnant after the reversal surgery.
Patency success rates are rather high for reversals, usually around 95 percent, regardless of how long the procedure occurs after a vasectomy. Guys can even check their patency—essentially their sperm count—after the surgery with SpermCheck, a home fertility test for men.
Pregnancy success rates are about 75 percent, though if you have a reversal more than 15 years after your vasectomy, success rates drop.
Getting a vasectomy reversed is possible, and many men have had children after the procedure. But remember, it’s not as simple—or affordable—as a vasectomy. So before you decide to get snipped, make sure you’re certain about it.