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Obstet Gynecol Surv. 1999 Dec;54(12):766-77.

Sterilization and its consequences.

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Spartanburg Regional Medical Center, South Carolina, USA.


The purpose of this review is to analyze critically the two techniques of sterilization (bilateral tubal ligation [BTL] and vasectomy) so that a physician may provide informed consent about methods of sterilization. A MEDLINE search and extensive review of published literature dating back to 1966 was undertaken to compare preoperative counseling, operative procedures, postoperative complications, procedure-related costs, psychosocial consequences, and feasibility of reversal between BTL and a vasectomy. Compared with a vasectomy, BTL is 20 times more likely to have major complications, 10 to 37 times more likely to fail, and cost three times as much. Moreover, the procedure-related mortality, although rare, is 12 times higher with sterilization of the woman than of the man. Despite these advantages, 300,000 more BTLs were done in 1987 than vasectomies. In 1987, there were 976,000 sterilizations (65 percent BTLs and 35 percent vasectomies) with an overall cost of $1.8 billion. Over $260 million could have been saved if equal numbers of vasectomies and BTLs had been performed, or more than $800 million if 80 percent had been vasectomies, as was the case in 1971. The safest, most efficacious, and least expensive method of sterilization is vasectomy. For these reasons, physicians should recommend vasectomy when providing counseling on sterilization, despite the popularity of BTL.


Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Family Physicians


After completion of this article, the reader will be able to predict the failure rates and likelihood of successful reversal of tubal ligation and vasectomy; to recall the difference in cost between the two sterilization procedures, and to describe the short-term and long-term complications associated with each of the two methods of sterilization.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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