Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=198722
Story Retrieval Date: 9/20/2014 4:59:01 AM CST

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Courtesy of National Institutes of Health

A vasectomy cuts and cauterizes the vas deferens so sperm cannot travel to semen.


New vasectomy procedure available at Planned Parenthood

by Zen Vuong
Jan 18, 2012



Zen Vuong/MEDILL

Watch this slideshow to better understand how vasectomies work.


Planned Parenthood is now offering no-scalpel vasectomies at the organization's downtown health center, 1200 N. LaSalle St.

Craig Lowder, a medical sales representative, arranged for one at the Near North Health Center shortly after the service became available earlier this month.

“I have three kids, and I’m at the stage now where I don’t care to have any more children,” said Lowder, 45. His three daughters range in age from 9 years old to 3 months old.

The clinic’s no-scalpel vasectomy uses a 3-inch hemostat — an instrument that looks like a pair of nose scissors — in procedures that cut and cauterize the vas deferens, the sperm highway to semen. Even though men will still ejaculate after the procedure, the viscous fluid will no longer contain any sperm, necessary for egg fertilization.

“We are really pleased with how our appointments are booking up and how the procedures are being performed,” said Carole Brite, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Illinois.

Organization policy prevents the health center from releasing how many vasectomies have been performed in the two weeks since Planned Parenthood adopted the new procedure. Surgical vasectomies are no longer offered.

If a man wants to get a vasectomy, he has to go in for an initial consultation. He is informed of the risks, benefits, alternatives and permanency of the procedure. If appointments are available, he could schedule his vasectomy for the next day, Brite said.

The operation takes about 10 to 20 minutes, she said. “We send patients home with ibuprofen and a mild narcotic, but most patients report back that they experience very little pain and don’t have to use narcotics,” she said.

Lowder said he had some tenderness but no discomfort. He took one 400-milligram ibuprofen on the first day but has not taken any since, he said.

Sterilization does not occur immediately after a vasectomy. Planned Parenthood advises patients to use traditional contraceptive methods until a post-operative sperm count follow-up at their clinic.

After three months or 20 to 25 ejaculations, a patient could mail in or drop off his semen sample at Planned Parenthood. It will test the sample for zero sperm. Once the sample results come out negative, sterilization is complete; however, a vasectomy does not protect people from sexually transmitted diseases.

The nonprofit organization advises a patient to wait two to three days before any sexual activity. If he feels discomfort, he should wait a couple more days.

“Sex feels just as good as ever,” Lowder said. “No problems with erections or the turnaround time in between sessions.”

Insurance and Medicaid could pay for a no-scalpel vasectomy at Planned Parenthood, but patients without either would pay $650 or less.

“We would certainly work with any patient who is interested in it but doesn’t have the means to pay,” Brite said.

A vasectomy is a common procedure. Dr. J. Stephen Jones, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic Department of Regional Urology, has performed more than 3,000 vasectomies. They involve “amazingly little” negative results, he said.

“Long-time side effects approach zero. There is a little discomfort at the time. You need to spend a day or two to try to keep the scrotum cool. Recovery is very quick,” he said. Men who have had permanent sterilization "have no higher reported risk of testicular pain than those who have not had a vasectomy," he added.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, a small percentage of men report side effects such as infection, a blood clot inside their scrotum or blood in their semen. “Unfounded concerns” include permanently damaged sex organs or a decrease in sex drive, the website reports.

A large number of studies have been performed to consider any correlation between vasectomies and prostate cancer.

“There is no reason to believe [vasectomies] are connected to prostate cancer,” Jones said. “Completely different organs” are involved and they are “nowhere close to each other,” he said.