Background: A wide variety of surgical techniques are used to perform vasectomy. The purpose of this systematic review was to assess if any surgical techniques to isolate or occlude the vas are associated with better outcomes in terms of occlusive and contraceptive effectiveness, and complications.
Methods: We searched MEDLINE (1966-June 2003), EMBASE (1980-June 2003), reference lists of retrieved articles, urology textbooks, and our own files looking for studies comparing two or more vasectomy surgical techniques and reporting on effectiveness and complications. From 2,058 titles or abstracts, two independent reviewers identified 224 as potentially relevant. Full reports of 219 articles were retrieved and final selection was made by the same two independent reviewers using the same criteria as for the initial selection. Discrepancies were resolved by involving a third reviewer. Data were extracted and methodological quality of selected studies was assessed by two independent reviewers. Studies were divided in broad categories (isolation, occlusion, and combined isolation and occlusion techniques) and sub-categories of specific surgical techniques performed. Qualitative analyses and syntheses were done.
Results: Of 31 comparative studies (37 articles), only four were randomized clinical trials, most studies were observational and retrospective. Overall methodological quality was low. From nine studies on vas isolation, there is good evidence that the no-scalpel vasectomy approach decreases the risk of surgical complications, namely hematoma/bleeding and infection, compared with incisional techniques. Five comparative studies including one high quality randomized clinical trial provided good evidence that fascial interposition (FI) increases the occlusive effectiveness of ligation and excision. Results of 11 comparative studies suggest that FI with cautery of the vas lumen provides the highest level of occlusive effectiveness, even when leaving the testicular end open. Otherwise, firm evidence to support any occlusion technique in terms of increased effectiveness or decreased risk of complications is lacking.
Conclusions: Current evidence supports no-scalpel vasectomy as the safest surgical approach to isolate the vas when performing vasectomy. Adding FI increases effectiveness beyond ligation and excision alone. Occlusive effectiveness appears to be further improved by combining FI with cautery. Methodologically sound prospective controlled studies should be conducted to evaluate specific occlusion techniques further.