How to Determine the Success of a Vasectomy Reversal
If you’re considering a vasectomy reversal, you know first-hand that life events happen that can cause you to reconsider your previous decision to undergo a vasectomy. The good news is that in most cases, the irreversible is in fact, reversible. And given the relatively new advances in microsurgical techniques, instruments and suture materials, reverse vasectomy success rates are significantly higher than what you may think.
Vasectomy Reversal Procedure Options
One of the factors that impacts the success rate of your vasectomy reversal depends on the type of procedure you receive, a vasovasostomy or a vasoepididymostomy. In a vasovasostomy, your surgeon takes the ends of your vas deferens that were cut apart during your vasectomy and stitches them back together. This is the most commonly performed procedure. In a vasoepididymostomy, your surgeon stitches the vas deferens directly to the epididymis, which is a duct behind your testicles.
Following a vasovasostomy procedure, sperm appears in semen in approximately 85-97 percent of men. Following a vasoepididymostomy procedure, sperm appears in semen in around 65 percent of men. Given the difference in success rates, you may ask why not all vasectomy reversal procedures are performed as a vasovasostomy? Unfortunately, your vasectomy reversal surgeon cannot definitively tell you which option will be performed beforehand, but will make the decision once they have begun the procedure and evaluated the best option for you.
Testing for Sperm Return and Motility
Similar to a vasectomy, the results of your semen sample determine the success of your vasectomy reversal. Unless your partner becomes pregnant, undergoing a semen analysis is the only way to determine if your vasectomy reversal was a success. The semen sample is essential because it reveals several important pieces of information.
First, it checks to see if sperm have reappeared in your semen. Next, it checks how much sperm you have, if they have motility, and finally, if they look healthy. All three components are key to achieving a pregnancy and growing your family.
Men should be aware that a vasectomy reversal is a bit more complicated than a vasectomy— and success may take a bit longer. While you’ll first check a semen sample about one to two months after surgery, there’s no need to be alarmed if your doctor doesn’t find any sperm at this first check. The semen analysis will be conducted again every two or three months. Typically, when a pregnancy occurs after a vasectomy reversal surgery, it usually happens within 24 months of the surgery, with an average “waiting time” of about 12 months.
The success of your vasectomy reversal also depends on key factors like how long ago you had your vasectomy. You’ll need to keep this in mind when you consider how long it will take for sperm to show up after your vasectomy reversal.
Even if you have some sperm found on your first semen sample, you may need to repeat the sample if there are still not enough active sperm present to achieve a successful pregnancy. Most men will end up getting their semen samples checked several times after a vasectomy reversal.
What to Expect During a Semen Analysis
Completing a semen sample is a simple process. You can give a sample in a private room at your doctor’s office, where it will be analyzed. Or, if it feels more comfortable for you, you can collect the sample at home, making sure to keep it at room temperature and bring it into the office within an hour of collection. It’s important that you don’t ejaculate for two or three days before giving a semen sample and limit alcoholic drinks around the time you collect your sample. Once your doctor has collected the sample, the next step is analyzing it.
Vasectomy Reversal Success Rates
The success rate of vasectomy reversal is excellent, with close to 9 out of 10 men ultimately having adequate sperm in the semen. Yet, achieving a normal semen sample —with an adequate number of sperm that have motility and are healthy— can take up to 12-15 months.
After undergoing a vasoepididymostomy procedure, sperm typically appear in the semen within the first six months. However, it is not uncommon for it to take longer and appear within 12 to 15 months after the surgery. If sperm are not detected in the semen within 18 months, then the reversal is considered a failure.
Like all good things, the success of your vasectomy reversal takes time. You’ll need to be patient after the reversal and provide several semen samples to ensure it was a success.