Sperm Granulomas. After vasectomy, sperm often leak from the vasectomy site or from a rupture in the epididymis, the tightly coiled, thin tube that connects the testicle to the vas deferens. Sperm elicit a very strong response from the immune system, which views them as foreign substances and attacks them. Sperm leakage therefore provokes an inflammatory reaction. The body forms pockets to trap the sperm in scar tissue and inflammatory cells. Firm balls of tissue about 1/2 inch in diameter then form; these are known as sperm granulomas. They occur in about 60% of vasectomy patients.
Although they rarely cause serious problems, one study reported that sperm granulomas were troublesome in 15% of patients. In about 3 - 5% of cases, sperm granulomas obstruct the already blocked ends of the vas deferens and generate pressure build-up in the epididymis. This can cause a rupture from the pressure of the fluid. In such cases, the testicles may become enlarged and painful. A damaged epididymis can be repaired, but if the patient later wishes a reversal of the vasectomy, disruption of this tiny tube makes success much less likely.
Epididymitis. Epididymitis occurs when an inflammation at the site of the vasectomy causes swelling of the epididymis. This condition may occur within the first year and can be treated with heat and anti-inflammatory medications. It usually clears up within a week.
Long-Term Psychologic Reactions
Positive Effects. Surveys indicate that about 90% of men are satisfied with vasectomy and that the feeling persists. One study reported even higher satisfaction in the partners, with more than 95% of wives reporting satisfaction with the procedure. Younger and older couples, with or without children, were all equally likely to have favorable reactions to vasectomies. Most men who have vasectomies feel relieved that the worry about pregnancy is over, and most couples respond well to their new-found contraceptive freedom.
Review Date: 10/20/2006
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, M.D., Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital