A vasovasostomy is a surgical procedure in which the effects of a vasectomy (male sterilization) are reversed. During a vasectomy, the vasa deferentia, which are ducts that carry sperm from the testicles to the seminal vesicles, are cut, tied, cauterized (burned or seared), or otherwise interrupted. A vasovasostomy creates an opening between the separated ends of each vas deferens so that the sperm may enter the semen before ejaculation. Most surgeons prefer to have the patient given either a continuous anesthetic block or general anesthesia because of the length of time required for the operation. A vasovasostomy generally takes two to three hours to perform, depending on the complexity of the surgery and the experience of the operating physician. More complex surgeries may take as long as five hours. The advantage of general anesthesia is that the patient remains unconscious for the duration of the surgery, which ensures that he remains comfortable. Regional anesthesia, such as a spinal block, allows the patient to remain awake during the procedure while blocking pain in the area of the surgery.
After an adequate level of anesthesia has been reached, the surgeon will make an incision from the top of one side of the scrotum, sometimes moving upward as far as several inches (centimeters) into the abdominal area. A similar incision will then be made on the other side of the scrotum. The vasa deferentia will be identified and isolated from surrounding tissue. Fluid will be removed from the testicular end of each vas deferens and analyzed for presence of sperm. If sperm are found, then a simpler procedure to connect the cut ends of the vasa deferentia will be performed. If no sperm are found, a more complex procedure called a vasoepididymostomy or epididymovasostomy (in which the vas deferens is attached to the epididymis, a structure in which the sperm mature and are stored) may be more successful in restoring sperm flow.
There are two techniques that may be used to reconnect the cut ends of the vasa deferentia. A single-layer closure involves stitching the outer layer of each cut end of the tube together with a very fine suture thread. This procedure takes less time but is often less successful in restoring sperm flow. A double-layer closure, however, involves stitching the inner layer of each cut end of the tube first, and then stitching the outer layer. After reconnection is established, the vasa deferentia are returned to their anatomical place and the scrotal incisions closed.