Background: Vasectomy is generally considered a safe and effective method of permanent contraception. The historical effectiveness of vasectomy has been questioned by recent research results indicating that the most commonly used method of vasectomy--simple ligation and excision (L and E)--appears to have a relatively high failure rate, with reported pregnancy rates as high as 4%. Updated methods such as fascial interposition (FI) and thermal cautery can lower the rate of failure but may require additional financial investments and may not be appropriate for low-resource clinics. In order to better compare the cost-effectiveness of these different vasectomy methods, we modelled the costs of different vasectomy methods using cost data collected in India, Kenya, and Mexico and effectiveness data from the latest published research.
Methods: The costs associated with providing vasectomies were determined in each country through interviews with clinic staff. Costs collected were economic, direct, programme costs of fixed vasectomy services but did not include large capital expenses or general recurrent costs for the health care facility. Estimates of the time required to provide service were gained through interviews and training costs were based on the total costs of vasectomy training programmes in each country. Effectiveness data were obtained from recent published studies and comparative cost-effectiveness was determined using cost per couple years of protection (CYP).
Results: In each country, the labour to provide the vasectomy and follow-up services accounts for the greatest portion of the overall cost. Because each country almost exclusively used one vasectomy method at all of the clinics included in the study, we modelled costs based on the additional material, labour, and training costs required in each country. Using a model of a robust vasectomy program, more effective methods such as FI and thermal cautery reduce the cost per CYP of a vasectomy by $0.08-$0.55.
Conclusion: Based on the results presented, more effective methods of vasectomy--including FI, thermal cautery, and thermal cautery combined with FI--are more cost-effective than L and E alone. Analysis shows that for a programme in which a minimum of 20 clients undergo vasectomies per month, the cost per CYP is reduced in all three countries by updated vasectomy methods.