Overview of Vasectomy

Vasectomy is a minor surgical procedure to cut and close off the tubes (vas deferens) that deliver sperm from the testes; it is usually performed as a means of contraception. The procedure typically takes from 15–30 minutes and usually causes few complications and no change in sexual function.

About 500,000 vasectomies are performed annually in the United States. A vasectomy is less invasive than a tubal ligation (i.e., the procedure used to prevent a woman's eggs from reaching the uterus) and more easily reversed. An increasing number of couples choose it as a means of permanent birth control.

Male Reproductive System Anatomy

To understand a vasectomy, it is helpful to understand the male reproductive system and how it functions. The testicles, or testes, are the sperm- and testosterone-producing organs. They are located in a sac at the base of the penis called the scrotum. Each testicle is connected to a small, coiled tube called the epididymis, where sperm are stored for as long as 6 weeks while they mature. The epididymes are connected to the prostate gland by a pair of tubes called the vas deferens.

The vas deferens are part of a larger bundle of tissue, blood vessels, nerves, and lymphatic channels called the spermatic cord. During ejaculation, seminal fluid produced by the prostate gland mixes with sperm from the testes to form semen, which is ejaculated from the penis.

Publication Review By: Barton H. Wachs, M.D., F.A.C.S.

Published: 14 Jun 1998

Last Modified: 13 Oct 2015