The risk of complications after vasectomy is lower than patients are led to expect, researchers have found after looking back over 15 years of operations.
Data on more than 94,000 vasectomies done by more than 100 surgeons in the UK between 2006 and 2021 found that many complication rates reported in literature given to patients are now out of date.
It is hoped the analysis can help counsel men on the risk of certain adverse events associated with the procedure.
Failure rates were available for 70,947 patients, the data presented at the European Association of Urology conference in Milan showed. Early failure (at three months) occurred in 0.5% (340 cases) and late failure of the procedure was reported in 0.014% (10 patients).
The rates of infection – defined as any case or condition that had been treated with antibiotics – are quoted as 2-10% of patients British Association of Urological Surgeons (BAUS)’ patient information leaflet, but the team found this was closer to 1.3%.
Haematoma rates in patients is quoted at 2-10% in BAUS statistics, but found a rate of 1.4%.
Only 89 or 0.12% of patients reported post-vasectomy pain syndrome rather than the up to 5% quoted in information given to patients the researchers noted.
Around 11,000 vasectomy operations are done every year in the UK, the majority by specialist GPs, the researchers from the Association of Surgeons of Primary Care, said.
It is important to counsel men about possible complications, however up-to-date data is scarce, they told the conference.
Mr Julian Peacock, a senior registrar at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust who led the study said: ‘This large dataset had never been independently analysed, and doing so has enabled us to update the standard complication rates, some of which dated back to the 1980s.
‘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.’
He added: ‘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.’
NHS England has previously had to curb rationing of elective procedures such as vasectomy by local commissioners.