What is a vasectomy?

Vasectomy is a simple, safe and effective means of permanent contraception or birth control. Because of the way that male sexual organs are positioned, the procedure is very straight-forward. It is intended to provide a man permanent contraception, or make him unable to father a child in the future by dividing and closing off the ends of the vas deferens (the tubes that carry sperm) - preventing sperm from getting through. A total of about 50 million men have had a vasectomy — approximately 5% of all married men of reproductive age. More than 500,000 men elect to have vasectomies every year in the U.S.

Is a vasectomy 100% effective?

Other than totally avoiding sexual intercourse, no method of birth control is 100% effective. In rare cases after a vasectomy, roughly 1 in 10,000 cases, it is possible for sperm to cross the separated ends of the vas deferens. Overall, the failure rate of vasectomy is exceedingly low. It has been used for many years as a means of birth control and has a long track record as being safe and effective.

Semen samples are routinely checked after vasectomy to confirm a successful procedure. If dead or live sperm continue to appear in the semen samples, a repeat vasectomy may be necessary. Fortunately, this only happens approximately once in every 10,000 cases, a failure rate far less than for any other form of birth control. For instance, condoms fail about 1% of the time, or 1 out of every 100 times one is used.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/04/2020.


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