MILAN, Italy — Vasectomies are even safer than scientists previously thought, according to a new study of more than 90,000 operations. That could be good news for many men looking for an excuse to watch March Madness this year! It may seem like an odd pairing, but vasectomies and March Madness are actually a match made in college basketball heaven, with surgeries typically skyrocketing during this time of the year.
“It’s the perfect time to relax at home and have something to do while you are recovering. There aren’t many sporting events like it with back-to-back days of multiple games to watch,” says Alexander Rozanski, MD, a UT Health San Antonio urologist, in a university release.
More than 500,000 men in the United States opt for the procedure each year. Rozanski says he first noticed this interesting connection during his urology residency training. A 2018 study back up that observation, finding that men typically schedule the procedure either at the end of the year or in March.
Rozanski notes that opting to get the 10-minute clinic procedure — which cuts and seals the tubes carrying sperm to prevent pregnancy — during March Madness likely helps patients follow their doctor’s orders more reliably.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get guys to follow post-vasectomy recovery instructions and make sure they are relaxing and not doing things they shouldn’t like strenuous exercise or activities. March Madness gives them a good excuse to lay low and recover,” the doctor adds.
The new study finds there are fewer complications than men may think
The new study, led by researchers from Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom, reveals that existing literature explaining the potential complications after surgery relies on outdated information. The team says their findings show that vasectomy is a “very reliable and safe” contraception method.
The Association of Surgeons of Primary Care, led by Dr. Gareth James, examined data on 94,082 vasectomies conducted between 2006 and 2021. Most of the data came from patient questionnaires, completed on the day of surgery and again four months after the operation. More than four out of five patients (around 77,000 men) filled out the initial questionnaire. Just under 36,500 patients completed the second 16 weeks later.
“This large dataset had never been independently analyzed, and doing so has enabled us to update the standard complication rates, some of which dated back to the 1980s,” says Julian Peacock, a senior registrar at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, in a statement.
Peacock says one of the most significant complications of a vasectomy is chronic scrotal pain. This symptom affects “up to five percent of all patients” according to leaflets about vasectomies published by the British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS). Reviewing the most recent data, however, the team found that the rate was actually as low as 0.12 percent.
“The chances of chronic scrotal pain could be very off-putting, especially as it’s a difficult condition to manage. So we hope that this more up-to-date rate gives a better picture of the small chance of this happening,” Peacock adds.
Severe complications are much more rare than medical pamphlets say
The team also reviewed the chances of post-operative infection or of a hematoma (when blood forms a clot in the scrotal tissue). The rates of infection – any case or condition requiring treatment with antibiotics – fall between two and 10 percent according to BAUS statistics, but the team found that it’s closer to 1.3 percent.
Hematoma rates in men also fall between two and 10 percent according to BAUS statistics, but this complication appears to only affect 1.4 percent of male vasectomy patients. To reach these new findings, the team looked at vasectomy failure rates for more than 70,000 procedures.
The findings show that the early failure rate – defined as finding sperm capable of motion after three months – was only slightly higher than previously quoted, occurring in 360 patients (0.5%) compared to the BAUS figure of 0.4 percent. Late failure – which occurs when the severed ends of the vas deferens reconnect – occurred in just 10 patients (0.014%). That’s compared to the BAUS figure of 0.05 percent.
“Vasectomy is a very reliable and safe contraception method. These figures might encourage more men to undergo the procedure, so we hope our research will be incorporated in the guidelines that provide information for pre-vasectomy counselling and leaflets,” the researcher continues.
The researchers presented their findings at the European Association of Urology (EAU) Congress in Milan, Italy.
“Although other countries’ standard information may be more up-to-date, nevertheless it is very useful for us as urologists to see large datasets of patient perspectives on this frequent procedure. As specialists, we mainly see the problems that arise from vasectomies, so it’s relevant for us to fill in the complete picture,” concludes Dr. Dinkelman-Smit, an assistant professor of urology at Erasmus University Medical Center in Holland.
South West News Service writer Stephen Beech contributed to this report.