In physical terms, no. It is highly unlikely that a vasectomy will directly cause a man to have erectile dysfunction.
This is because the surgery doesn’t affect or even come into contact with the specific mechanisms in the body responsible for erections.
However, it is possible that some men may develop psychological effects after vasectomy surgery which can impact on sexual performance, and their ability to get an erection.
Men who have had a vasectomy can of course go on to develop ED for various other reasons. But in the vast majority of cases, these will not be related to the procedure itself.
On this page we’ll cover:
- What a vasectomy is
- What a vasectomy involves
- Why a vasectomy is not likely to cause ED
- Possible reasons why someone who has had a vasectomy might get ED
- What people with ED can do to treat the condition
A vasectomy is a procedure which blocks sperm from combining with semen. It is sometimes referred to as male sterilisation, and is a preferred contraceptive method for many men who do not intend to try and conceive again in the future.
Even though it is in some cases reversible, it is considered to be a permanent method, as reversal is not always possible or successful.
It is said to be effective at preventing pregnancy in more than 99% of cases. The NHS states that of 2,000 men who have the procedure, only one will go on to conceive with a partner during the remainder of their lifetime.
A vasectomy is considered to be a minor operation. Most are performed under local anaesthetic, and usually the procedure only takes roughly 15 minutes.
There are two different ways in which a doctor can perform the operation. These are referred to as a ‘conventional vasectomy’ and a ‘no-scalpel vasectomy’.
In the conventional version, a doctor makes two small incisions in the scrotum. This enables the doctor to cut and remove a small part of the vas deferens, which are the tubes responsible for transporting sperm between the testicles and the penis. The tubes are then tied or sealed, and dissolvable stitches used to close the surgical cuts.
A no-scalpel procedure is slightly different, in that the doctor performing surgery will instead locate the vas deferens under the skin, and use a small clip to hold it in place. They will then make a small puncture in the scrotal skin, slightly open this with a small set of forceps, then sever and seal the tubes as they would during a conventional vasectomy. No stitches are needed in a no-scalpel vasectomy, and it is not as likely to cause pain or complications.
There are several checks a doctor may carry out before they do the procedure, as it is not suitable for all men to undergo.
Many men, prior to undergoing a vasectomy, may be nervous that the procedure will affect their sexual performance and cause erectile dysfunction.
However, vasectomy cases that directly result in erectile dysfunction are incredibly rare.
The procedure does not involve or interfere with any of the physical mechanisms in the body that deal with erections:
- A vasectomy prevents the transportation of sperm through the vas deferens, so that the man’s semen will not contain any sperm. It does not affect any other physical functions. The man will continue to produce sperm (which will be absorbed by the body) and semen, however the two will not come into contact with each other.
- Erectile dysfunction occurs when blood vessels at the entrance to the penis tighten and prevent blood from filling the corpus cavernosum.
Studies have observed barely any difference in impotence rates between men with and without vasectomy (1.9 against 1.7 man-years per thousand, respectively), and a review of studies even goes as far as to suggest that the procedure, in lowering the risk of pregnancy, contributes towards improved sexual performance.
Immediately following the operation, a doctor may advise not having sex until the area has sufficiently healed. But after this period, the patient will be able to have sex as normal.
The most prominent link between vasectomy and impotence relates to the psychological effects of the procedure. Sterilisation may cause some men to feel less masculine, and this can then have an adverse effect on sexual performance, which might contribute to the manifestation of erectile problems.
If someone is concerned that having the procedure might cause them to experience emotional or mental health problems, then they should discuss this with their doctor beforehand. A doctor may be able to allay the patient’s concerns, or suggest a more suitable alternative form of contraception.
It’s also possible that someone who has had a vasectomy may develop erectile dysfunction for reasons completely unrelated to the procedure. Lifestyle habits, the use of certain medicines, and other psychological issues can all be potential causes.
There are several options open to someone who is experiencing erectile dysfunction symptoms. Lifestyle changes and can help, and where these do not suffice in resolving the issue, a doctor may choose to prescribe medication.
But in those cases where a man who has had a vasectomy thinks that the operation has negatively impacted on their confidence and ability to perform, counselling is typically the best course of action.
If you are experiencing problems which you think might be related to having a vasectomy, or are thinking about having a vasectomy and would like to know more, talk to your doctor.