Scalpel or no-scalpel approach to the vas

Vasectomy is a surgical method used in men to cut or tie the vas deferens. The vas is a tube that delivers sperm from the testicles. The purpose of vasectomy is to provide permanent birth control. Usually the operation involves cutting the skin of the scrotum with a scalpel. A newer technique uses a sharp instrument to puncture the skin instead. The intent is to have fewer problems with bleeding, bruising, and infection. This review looked at whether the no-scalpel approach to the vas worked as well as the scalpel method. It also studied any side effects of the methods and whether the men liked the method.

In February 2014, we did a computer search for studies comparing the no-scalpel approach to the vas with the scalpel method. We included randomized controlled trials in any language. For the initial review, we also looked at reference lists of articles and book chapters.

We found two trials that looked at the no-scalpel approach to the vas. The trials had somewhat different results. The larger trial showed the no-scalpel method led to less bleeding, infection, and pain during and after the procedure. The no-scalpel approach required less time for the operation and had a faster return to sexual activity. The smaller study did not show these differences. However, the study may have been too small and many men dropped out. The two methods did not differ in the numbers of men who became sterile.

Authors' conclusions: 

The no-scalpel approach to the vas resulted in less bleeding, hematoma, infection, and pain as well as a shorter operation time than the traditional incision technique. No difference in effectiveness was found between the two approaches.

Read the full abstract...

Currently, the two most common surgical techniques for approaching the vas during vasectomy are the incisional method and the no-scalpel technique. Whereas the conventional incisional technique involves the use of a scalpel to make one or two incisions, the no-scalpel technique uses a sharp-pointed, forceps-like instrument to puncture the skin. The no-scalpel technique aims to reduce adverse events, especially bleeding, bruising, hematoma, infection and pain and to shorten the operating time.


The objective of this review was to compare the effectiveness, safety, and acceptability of the incisional versus no-scalpel approach to the vas.

Search strategy: 

In February 2014, we searched the computerized databases of CENTRAL, MEDLINE, POPLINE and LILACS. We looked for recent clinical trials in and the International Clinical Trials Registry Platform. Previous searches also included in EMBASE. For the initial review, we searched the reference lists of relevant articles and book chapters.

Selection criteria: 

Randomized controlled trials and controlled clinical trials were included in this review. No language restrictions were placed on the reporting of the trials.

Data collection and analysis: 

We assessed all titles and abstracts located in the literature searches and two authors independently extracted data from the articles identified for inclusion. Outcome measures included safety, acceptability, operating time, contraceptive efficacy, and discontinuation. We calculated Peto odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the dichotomous variables.

Main results: 

Two randomized controlled trials evaluated the no-scalpel technique and differed in their findings. The larger trial demonstrated less perioperative bleeding (OR 0.49; 95% CI 0.27 to 0.89) and pain during surgery (OR 0.75; 95% CI 0.61 to 0.93), scrotal pain (OR 0.63; 95% 0.50 to 0.80), and incisional infection (OR 0.21; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.78) during follow up than the standard incisional group. Both studies found less hematoma with the no-scalpel technique (OR 0.23; 95% CI 0.15 to 0.36). Operations using the no-scalpel approach were faster and had a quicker resumption of sexual activity. The smaller study did not find these differences; however, the study could have failed to detect differences due to a small sample size as well as a high loss to follow up. Neither trial found differences in vasectomy effectiveness between the two approaches to the vas.