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The length of time it takes to recover from any general surgery, including a vasectomy or a vasovasostomy to reverse a vasectomy, depends on how long the operation takes. The longer it takes the surgeon to complete the procedure, the more bleeding, bruising, infection, and pain there will be, and the longer they will last. 

However, that's also true of sterilization procedures for women. A vasectomy is a lot less expensive and requires a lot less hospital time than the "tubes tying" operation for women (bilateral tube ligation), and unlike a woman's procedure, it doesn't have to be done under general anesthesia. That results in much faster recovery for a man than for a woman, but exactly how long is that?

Let's take a look at what can happen when something goes wrong.

  • In rare cases, there can be damage to blood vessels during the operation itself. In the popular no-scalpel version of the procedure, this is very rare. When it happens, recovery can take months. Doctors do have manage bleeding from even the smallest blood vessels. Sometimes they don't.
  • Men who are own blood thinners (Coumadin, Xarelto, Plavix, and so on) usually are asked to discontinue the anticoagulant medication a week or so before the procedure. Men may also be asked to stop Aspirin. If they don't, there may be more bruising after the procedure, and it may take several weeks to resolve.
  • Swollen testicles and nasty bruises can occur when patients don't follow the doctor's orders to go home and lie down the remainder of the day after the surgery, or if they lift heavy objects during the first three or four days after the procedure. 

If everything goes right, recovery time is brief, and complications are rare, but not unknown:

  • About 12 percent of men who have traditional vasectomies develop hematomas, accumulations of clotted blood, during the first week after the procedure. Usually these can be treated with rest, ice, and watchful waiting. Men who get the no-scalpel procedure develop hematomas less than 1 percent of the time.
  • Epididymal congestion, or "old man's balls," can occur after the procedure. Usually this shows up as pain after movement, visible enlargement of usually just one testicle, with or without fever. When there's a fever, it's important to see a doctor fast. This complication months, years, or even decades (in the case of man I knew, 47 years) after the procedure. 
  • A sperm granuloma occurs in about 25 percent of men about a week after the procedure. The procedure stops the flow of sperm into the prostate, and the sperm accumulates because it has nowhere to go. Usually this can be treated with Aspirin or NSAIDs for a week or two until the sperm are absorbed into the body.
About one man in one thousand will have persistent pain that is only stopped by a second procedure to reverse the vasectomy.

If you want to avoid complications, ask your doctor about no-scalpel techniques. These do involve an incision, but the doctor pushes blood vessels out of the way and focuses on the canal through which sperm travels to the prostate. Most men qualify for the procedure, which has far fewer complications. 

A similar procedure is available for reversing vasectomy. If you want to avoid pain, swelling, bleeding, and infection on a future procedure, it is very important to follow your doctor's instructions to the letter during your first procedure. Not following the doctor's advice can result in the formation of scar tissue that is hard to cut, that will make it impossible for the doctor to avoid severing blood vessels, and that will keep a man out of action for far longer than otherwise necessary.

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