Vasectomy Reversals Succeed Even After Many Years

03/28/02    Portland, Ore.

OHSU study finds vasectomy reversal as effective as other fertility treatments

Contrary to older studies on the subject, new research suggests that men who undergo vasectomy reversals after more than 15 years have an equal or higher success rate at getting their female partners pregnant than do couples using in vitro fertilization (IVF). The study, conducted at Oregon Health & Science University, was published in the current issue of the journal Fertility & Sterility.

"For many couples whose male partner has had a longstanding vasectomy, counseling about fertility options often focuses on assisted reproduction," said Eugene Fuchs, M.D., OHSU urologist and author of the study. "What is not widely known is that improvements in techniques have led to much greater success with vasectomy reversals."

Fuchs' study took a detailed look at 173 of his own patients who had vasectomy reversals more than 15 years after the original vasectomy took place. Fuchs chose this group of patients because often, with a vasectomy-imposed blockage for great lengths of time, sperm flow is thought to be reduced to the point that pregnancy is rarely achieved. Thus, the widely held view has been that the more expensive IVF is a better option for these patients.

Fuchs found that men who had their vasectomies reversed after 15 to 19 years achieved a 49 percent pregnancy rate, while after 20 to 25 years the pregnancy rate was 33 percent. While age of the male did not appear to be a factor in pregnancy success, the age of his female partner was a factor. The pregnancy rate was 64 percent for women younger than 30 years old and 28 percent for women older than 40 years old.

Overall, Fuchs' patients had a 43 percent pregnancy rate in which the man had an average obstructive interval of 18 years and the average age of the female partner was 34.3 years. Comparatively, a sample of IVF patients analyzed had a 40 percent pregnancy rate with spousal ages similar to that of Fuchs' group.

"We hope this evidence will give patients and their doctors more options to discuss about infertility treatment," said Fuchs, who himself has performed more than 2,000 vasectomy reversals.