Will Zap Replace Snip?
"The idea is to heat up or cook the vas," Fried says. "It immediately cooks the tissue so that the vas closes. Then healing of the tissue creates scar tissue that further blocks the vas."
In theory, this would be more palatable to men than the current no-scalpel technique. Invented in China, the procedure first numbs the scrotum with an injection of local anesthetic into the skin. With a needle-like tool, the doctor makes a small hole in the scrotal sac. The flexible skin around the puncture is stretched, and the doctor uses a small instrument to pull the vas from each testicle through the opening. The vas is then severed and closed, often with a cauterizing tool that seals the vas shut. If done on a Friday, a man can go back to work on Monday -- and play sports the next weekend.
Even new, minimally invasive surgery to tie a woman's fallopian tubes isn't nearly as simple or painless as that. Yet it's still too scary for lots of guys.
Urologist Jay Sandlow, MD, is director of the male fertility clinic at the University of Iowa. He recently led a study that looked at the psychological issues of men who had decided to have vasectomies.
"Originally, I thought we would find that a certain number of guys would have concerns about the sudden loss of fertility -- one day you're fertile and the next day you're not," Sandlow tells WebMD. "I was surprised that the concerns about the finality of vasectomy weren't that much of an issue. Guys are much more concerned about pain and about their fear of the unknown."
Fried thinks the ultrasound device will address exactly this issue.
"It doesn't make much sense that female sterilization is still much more common than vasectomy," he says. "Presumably there is a psychology involved here in the sense of social or cultural issues of whether a couple chooses male or female sterilization -- and it falls on the female most often. If we can say we don't make any cuts in the scrotum, it may make it more popular for men."