Health Cover Stories

Easy Change: Washington University Physicians

Figuring out how large of a family you want to have—or whether you want to have one at all—is a major decision. For men who have considered their options and decided to have a vasectomy, Washington University Physicians offers outpatient services that are minimally invasive and require little or no downtime.

“A vasectomy is a simple office procedure that takes about 10 minutes and has a very low risk of complications,” says urologic surgeon Dr. Arnold Bullock, who sees patients at Barnes-Jewish, Barnes-Jewish West County and Christian hospitals. “I usually perform the procedure on Fridays so the patient can relax over the weekend and go back to work Monday. He can drive himself to and from the appointment and get on with his day afterward. Many men come in for a consultation and have the procedure the same day. And patients are always welcome to bring their spouses or partners to appointments.”

Sexual function is not affected by vasectomy, and the procedure leaves no physical scars, so the patient can keep it private if he wishes. It normally involves a local anesthetic and a tiny incision in the scrotum, Bullock says. The surgeon removes a small portion of the left and right vas deferens and cauterizes the ends to close off the tubes, blocking sperm from getting into the patient’s ejaculate. A small stitch may be used to close the skin.

There is also a method that uses two small needle punctures and a special clamp, says urologic surgeon Dr. Gerald Andriole, who practices with Bullock and Dr. Christopher Arett. “We developed this method about five years ago,” Andriole notes. “It’s an option for patients who prefer not to have an incision.”

In either case, all the patient feels during the procedure is the initial numbing injection, and most don’t need more than a couple of Tylenol afterward, according to Bullock. He says there are very few lifestyle restrictions after a vasectomy, but men who do strenuous exercise or physical work such as loading trucks or handling freight should wait a few days before returning to full activity.

“We also advise that patients continue birth control for about 10 weeks after the procedure, when we perform a test to make sure the semen no longer has sperm in it,” Andriole says. To make the process even easier, the surgeons are offering special Friday vasectomy clinics during March Madness basketball, Bullock says. “It’s a great time to have it done because fans will be relaxing and watching TV over the weekend anyway,” he notes. Patients can call 314.362.8200 to learn more or make an appointment.

Patients who change their minds after a vasectomy can undergo surgery to reverse the procedure. Or, sperm can be collected and used in artificial insemination since the testicles continue to produce it after surgery, doctors say.

Andriole says Washington University physicians work closely with each patient to determine what is right for him. “It’s an important life decision,” he notes. “We are always happy to answer any questions men have, before and after a vasectomy.”

Washington University Physicians offers comprehensive care and treatment in urology and men’s health. Pictured on the cover: Gerald Andriole Jr., M.D., Christopher Arett, M.D., and Arnold Bullock, M.D. For more information, call 314.362.8200 or visit urology.wustl.edu.

Cover design by Allie Bronsky
Cover photo by Bill Barrett

Pictured above: Drs. Gerald Andriole and Arnold Bullock will offer special vasectomy clinic hours during March Madness.

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