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Half of Men Fail to Check if Vasectomy is Working
Date:12/28/2009

Doctors routinely ask that men come back to ensure effectiveness, but many don't, study finds

MONDAY, Dec. 28 (HealthDay News) -- Nearly half of men who get vasectomies don't return for follow-up tests that make sure the procedure is working, new research suggests.

Those who don't go back, and therefore risk an unwanted pregnancy, are more likely to be smokers, not highly educated and the fathers of four or more children, the study found.

The findings show the need for better communication between doctors and vasectomy patients, especially those at higher risk of not following up, said study co-author Yefim Sheynkin, an associate professor of urology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Overall, vasectomy is a "pretty darned good" form of birth control, said Dr. John K. Amory, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Washington Medical School "It's about 99 percent effective."

In rare cases, a vasectomy fails. In those cases, sperm can make it into semen and impregnate a woman.

To make sure that any remaining sperm has cleared out of the vas deferens tubes, doctors routinely ask patients to provide a semen sample about three months after the vasectomy procedure, Amory said.

Total clearance usually takes 20 to 30 ejaculations, he said, noting sperm can stay alive for weeks.

"We want to see a sperm count of zero after three months," he said. "There are millions and millions of sperm. If only 1 percent of them are alive, that's still a lot."

Amory said about half of men fail to return for the follow-up test, and the new study confirms that number.

The researchers, who report their findings in the December issue of Contraception, examined the medical records of 214 vasectomy patients to see what role sociodemographic factors might play in follow-up.

Forty-six percent didn't get a post-vasectomy semen analysis.
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