Most of the time, there is no noticeable effect of a vasectomy on the prostate. In a vasectomy, the vasa deferentia, the tubes that carry sperm from the testes and to the penis for expulsion, are snipped or severed. The main goal is usually to prevent conception; with the tubes cut, the sperm never make it into the seminal fluid that is released during ejaculation, and thus have no chance of meeting a female egg during intercourse. The prostate is an important gland in the male reproductive system, and a portion of the vas deferens does pass through it. This portion isn’t normally impacted by a vasectomy, however, and the prostate’s role is usually unchanged. Trouble can arise in cases of surgical complications or tissue damage, though this is usually owing more to the problem than the procedure itself. Sometimes men develop bacterial infections that can lead to prostate trouble, and in rare cases sperm that isn’t naturally absorbed by the body can clump together and form lumps and masses that can put pressure on the gland, too. Some studies have looked for connections between vasectomies and instances of prostate cancer, but their results have generally been inconclusive.
Understanding Vasectomies Generally
Vasectomies are usually pretty simple procedures, and are almost always elective — which is to say, there’s not usually any medical reason justifying them. Men typically choose a vasectomy when they want to be sure that they will not father any, or any more, children. Most of the time they can be done in doctor’s offices or clinics, and rarely require full anesthesia. Doctors or other qualified providers usually make two small incisions on the sides of the scrotum, then gently expose the vas deferens on either side. The tubes are snipped and then tied or cauterized; the man is usually then stitched, told to rest, and sent home. Most patients are able to resume all normal activities, sexual and otherwise, within about a week.
The prostate gland is approximately walnut-sized and surrounds the urethra. Located below and in front of the rectum and below the bladder, the prostate receives sperm from the vasa deferentia, which attach to the distal end to the testicles. The prostate mixes the sperm with an alkaline fluid that encourages semen flow and provides nourishment to the sperm. Though the vasa deferentia no longer transport sperm to the prostate following a vasectomy, the prostate continues producing and passing this fluid. Its role is generally unchanged and unaffected by the procedure.
Most of the prostate problems reported after a vasectomy are related to complications. The surgery can cause trauma to tissues that often results in bruising and swelling, both of which may affect the prostate. Though this is a natural response to having a vasectomy, excessive swelling might impede urine flow by putting obstructive internal pressure on the urethra. In order to prevent this, health care providers usually recommend inactivity for 24 to 48 hours after a vasectomy followed by a week or so of light activity. If discomfort or swelling escalates or is accompanied by unusual drainage and warmth at the surgical site, patients should be evaluated by a health care provider for a possible infection.
Some infections are caused by errors made during the procedure or during initial healing. If microbes are introduced into the surgical field during the vasectomy, such as through contaminated instruments, the bacteria could travel up the dissected tubes and into the prostate. This could cause an infection accompanied by pain, swelling and fever along with difficulty urinating. The same thing could happen if the wounds were exposed to bacteria in the early phases of healing, or if they weren’t cleaned properly. Physicians usually prescribe antibiotics to treat this condition, and once things are cleared up, any pressure on the prostate usually disappears.
Risk of Granulomas
The body normally absorbs the sperm trapped in the prostate and severed vasa deferentia, but occasionally the sperm may form clumps referred to as granulomas. When present in the prostate, a granuloma might trigger an immune response producing a benign form of prostatitis. This is thought to be a generally harmless condition, and rest and medication typically clear things up.
Potential Connection to Other Problems
Though prostate cancer is the most common malignancy diagnosed in men, researchers are hard pressed to find an association between the disease and vasectomy. Researchers cannot find a biological reason for an increase in prostate cancer risk. The testicles and vasa deferentia are directly affected following a vasectomy, but the prostate continues to function as if nothing had happened.