Many men don't check to see if vasectomy worked

NEW YORK Thu May 17, 2007 3:44pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Many men who have a vasectomy fail to ever submit a semen sample to make sure the procedure worked. But giving them a scheduled appointment to do so may help, according to a new study.

After a vasectomy, men have to submit semen samples to make sure there is no sperm, or at least no viable sperm. Most urologists want two consecutive sperm-free samples, which means asking patients to return at least twice after their vasectomy.

However, many men fail to do so. In a study published last year, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation found that one-quarter of the patients they followed never returned to submit a semen sample. And half didn't get a second sperm analysis, as their surgeon had advised.

In the current study, the same research team looked at whether scheduling a follow-up appointment at the time of the vasectomy would help.

As it stands, men are typically asked to simply "drop off" a semen sample 8 to 12 weeks after their surgery, explained study co-author Dr. J. Stephen Jones.

Over 18 months, Jones and his colleagues followed 228 vasectomy patients, half of whom were given a scheduled follow-up appointment and half of whom were only told to bring back a semen sample in two months.

Overall, the researchers found, 84 percent of patients with an appointment returned to give a semen sample, and nearly half complied with the instructions to provide two consecutive sperm-free samples.

That compared with 65 percent and 20 percent, respectively, in the comparison group, the researchers report in the journal BJU International.

The "simple act" of scheduling a formal appointment seems to spur more men to confirm that they are indeed sterile, rather than assuming the vasectomy worked, Jones told Reuters Health.

On the other hand, the majority of men in both groups failed to have a second confirmatory test. The problem, Jones and his colleagues believe, may rest not with the patients, but with the post-vasectomy process. Asking men to submit two sperm-free sample may be overly demanding, they say.

Based on their research and experience, Jones said, he and his colleagues now have vasectomy patients submit a semen sample three months after the surgery, and if it's all-clear they need not have a second test.

SOURCE: BJU International, May 2007.

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