The need for epididymovasostomy at vasectomy reversal plateaus in older vasectomies: a study of 1,229 cases



Vasectomy reversal involves either vasovasostomy (VV) or epididymovasostomy (EV), and rates of epididymal obstruction and EV increase with time after vasectomy. However, as older vasectomies may not require EV for successful reversal, we hypothesized that sperm production falls after vasectomy and can protect the system from epididymal blowout. Our objective was to define how the need for EV at reversal changes with time after vasectomy through a retrospective review of consecutive reversals performed by three surgeons over a 10-year period. Vasovasotomy was performed with Silber score 1–3 vasal fluid. EVs were performed with Silber score 4 (sperm fragments; creamy fluid) or 5 (sperm absence) fluid. Reversal procedure type was correlated with vasectomy and patient age. Post-operative patency rates, total spermatozoa and motile sperm counts in younger (<15 years) and older (>15 years) vasectomies were assessed. Simple descriptive statistics determined outcome relevance. Among 1229 patients, 406 had either unilateral (n = 252) or bilateral EV’s (n = 154) constituting 33% (406/1229) of reversals. Mean patient age was 41.4±7 years (range 22–72). Median vasectomy interval was 10 years (range 1–38). Overall sperm patency rate after reversal was 84%. The rate of unilateral (EV/VV) or bilateral EV increased linearly in vasectomy intervals of 1–22 years at 3% per year, but plateaued at 72% in vasectomy intervals of 24–38 years. Sperm counts were maintained with increasing time after vasectomy, but motile sperm counts decreased significantly (p < 0.001). Pregnancy, secondary azoospermia, varicocoele and sperm granuloma were not assessed. In conclusion, and contrary to conventional thinking, the need for EV at reversal increases with time after vasectomy, but this relationship is not linear. EV rates plateau 22 years after vasectomy, suggesting that protective mechanisms ameliorate epididymal ‘blowout’. Upon reversal, sperm output is maintained with time after vasectomy, but motile sperm counts decrease linearly, suggesting epididymal dysfunction influences semen quality after reversal.