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Your guide to failed vasectomy

Newborn baby's feet - failed vasectomy

“Out of 2,000 men who are sterilised, one will get a woman pregnant during the rest of his lifetime.”                                                                                                      (NHS UK, 2013)

The decision to undergo a vasectomy is never taken lightly. Even though more than half of all men who are sterilised will later decide they wish to reverse their decision, at the time it is expected that the sterilisation will be permanent.

If a vasectomy has failed, this may have arisen as a result of substandard surgical treatment or because you weren’t given proper advice. Wherever the procedure took place – by a doctor at his practice or a surgeon at the hospital - an appropriate and reasonable standard of care is always owed to you, the patient.

Loss of sensation...

The majority of male sterilisation procedures are carried out without any problems. However errors can sometimes occur during surgery which may leave a patient disfigured, in recurring pain or with a loss of sensation.

Any clinical negligence which has caused injury or harm may require a further procedure or an extended period of recovery. It could mean taking time off work and a loss of earnings.

The clinical negligence team at Your Legal Friend have successfully resolved many different and specific types of cases for clients who felt they did not receive the expected duty of care. Our specialist, experienced lawyers  can help you find out what went wrong and help to put right the injury or harm you have suffered because of negligence by a doctor, surgeon, nurse or other medical practitioner.

Recent statistics...

  • 15,106 vasectomies were performed in 2013 compared to 37,700 in 2001/02, a fall of 60%.
  • The number of vasectomies fell by 16% between 2012 and 2014. 

                                                                                     (NHS Information Centre and Hospital Episode Statistics, 2014)

What Is A Vasectomy?

A vasectomy is a surgical procedure performed on men to prevent pregnancy. Sperm is blocked from entering the semen, which means a woman’s egg will not be fertilised.

It is a minor outpatient procedure that usually lasts between 15 to 30 minutes and can be performed by a GP in their own surgery.

Using a local anaesthetic, the doctor makes a small incision in the side of the scrotum with a scalpel or laser to cut the ‘vas deferens’ – the tubes that carries the sperm. The two ends of the cut tube are then sealed.

  • If a scalpel was used – a few stitches might be required.
  • Laser surgery - usually does not require any stitches.

A vasectomy does not stop sperm production. Although the vas deferens are cut and sperm cannot enter, it is possible for sperm to continue living in the tubes. It is advised that contraception should be used for at least eight weeks after the procedure.

What problems can occur after a vasectomy?

Vasectomy is generally considered to be 99% effective and, following the surgery, the likelihood of conception decreases with time.. In the months following the surgery, your doctor should carry out two checks on samples under a microscope to ensure that all sperm has gone.

  • Bruising, swelling or pain or ongoing pain in the testicles.
  • A slight risk of infection.
  • Canalisation -  the cut ends of the vas deferens can grow back together again.This affects one in every 2,000 patients and, while more likely to occur in the months following the procedure, it can also happen spontaneously several years later.

Problems caused by error or negligence

The effects of error or negligence may include:

  • Inadequate cutting of the vas deferens tubes – leading to an unwanted pregnancy
  • Mistakes made in cutting a ligament - causing nerve damage or loss of sensation
  • Extensive incision - resulting in scarring, possible disfigurement, and damage to the testicles
  • Contracting an infection – always possible during any surgical procedure.

More serious side-effects include:

  • Bleeding inside the scrotum
  • Sperm granulomas - hard and uncomfortable lumps caused by sperm leaking out of the cut tubes and collecting in surrounding tissues
  • Long-term pain in the testicles.

What happens if a pregnancy does occur after a vasectomy?

There are two types of failed vasectomy:

Short-term failure

It can take up to six months for semen to be clear of sperm after a vasectomy operation. Patients must be informed that they will remain fertile for up to four months following a vasectomy and that they must continue to practice contraception until it is confirmed that the sperm is no longer present.

Two samples of seminal fluid should be produced no earlier than 10 or 12 weeks following a vasectomy. If either of the first two tests shows any sperm, then the test must be repeated until two consecutive analyses show no sperm dead or alive.

If conception occurs during this period, the failure of the vasectomy is considered as short-term as the procedure has not yet become effective.

 Long-term failure

If sperm is still active six months after the vasectomy, then the procedure has failed because:

  • The vas deferens tubes were not cut correctly, or
  • The cut/blocked tubes have rejoined naturally and sperm can once again enter the semen.

Do I have I grounds for making a claim for clinical negligence?

If a vasectomy failed because of clinical negligence, the most common reasons are:

  • The operation was not performed correctly or
  • There was a lack of post-operative contraceptive advice.

Before surgery takes place – the scrotal sacs should be examined for abnormalities and  a medical history taken.

A doctor should properly inform the patient - that pain, swelling and bruising are all likely to occur following the procedure and that there is a 1-2% risk of pain, which may continue for months.

Men involved with heavy manual work - should be warned that secondary bleeding can occur with serious consequences if they do not take several days off work.

If you have suffered a failed vasectomy due to clinical negligence

It may be possible to claim compensation that could:

  • Cover the cost of another vasectomy procedure plus
  • A fixed sum for the distress caused by an unwanted pregnancy.

If a failed vasectomy results in the birth of a child

  • Further expenses may be claimed for the child’s upbringing if the child has  an impairment or disability.

Vasectomy reversal

Reversing a vasectomy is a complicated procedure to rejoin the vans deferens tubes that were cut or blocked.

Depending on the age of the couple, it is estimated that the success rate of a vasectomy reversal is:

  • Up to 55% if you have your vasectomy reversed within 10 years.
  • Around 25% after more than 10 years.                                                                                                                                         (NHS UK, 2013)

How Your Legal Friend can help you

If a surgical error occurs during a vasectomy and a man isunknowingly left fertile, this can cause psychological injury.

As experienced clinical negligence specialists, we know that you will want to find out why your GP or doctor failed you in their duty to provide the expected standard of care in carrying out your vasectomy.

Our task is to ensure your voice is heard and your case is made so that the doctor, hospital, health trust or other medical practitioner can be brought to account for the harm and suffering caused.

Your Legal Friend is committed to ensuring victims of clinical negligence obtain answers to their questions, receive appropriate compensation and can ensure their future medical treatment and care needs are properly met.