Steve Tait knew his family was complete after having his fifth child. He looked forward to raising his daughter and four sons, helping them learn, grow, and navigate life.
In June 2000, Tait chose to get a vasectomy, a surgical procedure that severs the vas deferens—the tubes leading to the testes—leaving a man sterile and unable to father a child.
Getting a vasectomy is common, with half a million men getting the procedure every year in the United States. It is also very effective, with a less than one percent failure rate for what is considered a permanent form of male birth control. That is, unless you decide to get a vasectomy reversal, which is what approximately six percent of men who have a vasectomy end up doing. Tait is one of these men.
In 2017, Tait got remarried. His new wife had no children of her own, and Tait's five children from a previous marriage were now young adults, living on their own. Tait and his wife began to discuss the possibility of having a child, but there was just one obstacle: Tait's vasectomy. Luckily, Tait was referred to Jim Hotaling, MD, MS, FECSM, a urologist at University of Utah Health.
In addition to being a board-certified urologic surgeon, Hotaling is the Director of the Men's Health Program at U of U Health. He is also the leading expert in male infertility in the Mountain West, seeing more than 400 new infertility patients each year.
"Dr. Hotaling is the best," Tait said. "I'm so glad he and his team at University of Utah Health took such great care of me."
For most patients, the overall success rate of vasectomy reversal surgery is high—between 90-95 percent. It's even higher for patients who have the surgery within five years of getting a vasectomy. For patients like Tait, the success rate is closer to 90 percent, given that he was 20 years out from his vasectomy.
Weeks later, his wife was pregnant. "She took an at-home pregnancy test on July 31, and it was positive," Tait said. Just ten months after surgery, Tait's wife gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Arran Chhay Sakohl Tait, born on April 18, 2021.
"I really didn't think the chances were good after 20 years, so this was very eye-opening for me," Tait said. "When you have the right doctor—a good surgeon like Dr. Hotaling—amazing things can happen."
Vasectomy Reversal Surgery
Vasectomy reversal surgery is performed using various techniques. No matter the technique, this procedure is considered a microsurgery: a type of surgery that requires a microscope and smaller tools due to the small size of the surgical area and the complex nature of the procedure itself. In addition to using smaller tools for this type of surgery, Hotaling and his team use suture material that is finer than human hair.
"That's part of the reason our surgeries are so successful," Hotaling said. "We make sure we use the right tools for the job, no matter the procedure."
Vasectomy reversal surgery can take as little as two hours or as long as four hours. In Tait's case, the surgery lasted about three hours from start to finish. But he was at the surgery center for seven hours. Hotaling performed an epididymovasostomy on Tait—one of the most complex microsurgical procedures—to fix sperm blockages in the epididymis.
"Dr. Hotaling really went the extra mile to make sure I was taken care of," Tait said. "Mine wasn't the most straightforward case, but he took the time to make sure it was done right."
Because it had been so many years since Tait's vasectomy, he wasn't sure if the reversal would be successful. He decided to have a testicular sperm extraction (TESE) at the time of surgery. This allowed him to store his collected sperm in a sperm bank for in-vitro fertilization if needed. Luckily, Tait didn't need to rely on in-vitro fertilization to grow his family.
"I might call the sperm bank and let them know we don't need it anymore," Tait said with a laugh.
Hotaling credits Tait's successful surgery to the years of his team's experience, along with the frequency of the procedures performed.
Although a reversal is usually quite successful, there are factors that can affect the outcome, including the following:
- Procedure technique
- Skill level of surgeon
- Length of time since vasectomy
- Quality of your vasal fluid
- Whether you have a blockage in your epididymis
No matter the circumstance, Hotaling has some words of advice for anyone who is considering a vasectomy reversal, or any microsurgical procedure.
"If you are going to get a vasectomy reversal, you want to go to someone who has done a lot of them, and also does them often," Hotaling said. "My colleagues and I perform hundreds of microsurgeries every year, and this keeps us well-practiced, always learning, and always improving."
Vasectomy Reversal Recovery
Pain and discomfort after surgery is minimal for most patients. Ibuprofen and Tylenol are used to manage pain as needed, along with ice packs for swelling. For Tait, recovery was straightforward and pain-free.
"I'm so grateful for the surgical team that took care of me," Tait said. "They must have patched things up right because afterwards it was a relatively painless experience. I had no real pain, just a bit of discomfort for a few days."
As with all surgeries, there is some risk associated with a vasectomy reversal. Infection and internal bleeding of the scrotum are possible side effects, along with the procedure proving unsuccessful, failing to restore fertility.
Even with the possible risks, Tait is glad he decided to pull the trigger on both the vasectomy and its reversal.
"For people who are questioning getting a vasectomy, just know it's a good thing and a great form of birth control," Tait said. "And because it can be reversed, it's an even better option."
Tait is even more grateful for what a successful surgery means: a new family member, and the potential for even more children in the future.
"Before my wife and I were married, I had the recurring feeling that we would be blessed if we got married," Tait said. "We weren't thinking of kids then, but when my wife found out she was pregnant, I realized what that blessing was to be: having a child and starting a family."
And the family might not be done growing yet. Baby Arran just might get a younger sibling in the future.
"My wife hasn't ruled it out," Tait said. "There's definitely a possibility of a second one."
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No matter your question or concern, Men's Health Services at U of U Health provides care for men of all ages. From regular check-ups to treating complex conditions, our doctors and specialists have the experience and resources to provide you with high-quality, low-cost care in the Salt Lake area and surrounding cities.
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