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In 1989 a 29-year-old Michael Schrader couldn’t envision wanting more—that is, more children. Taking steps to keep his nuclear family intact, he underwent a vasectomy. Divorce later frayed this family portrait, but in the years that followed, Schrader would revisit the issue of having children with his soon to be second wife.

This past April, Northwestern Memorial became the first center in the Midwest to perform a robotic-assisted vasectomy reversal using the da Vinci surgical robot. Experts believe this approach is superior to traditional surgery in that it may yield more successful outcomes and reduce couples’ wait times for conceiving naturally. 

“Many people think getting a vasectomy reversed is just like turning on a faucet that was off,” said William Lin, MD, a Northwestern urological surgeon specializing in microsurgery. “But it’s not that simple. Reversal is a very delicate procedure that requires ultra precision for it to be successful.” Lin explains this high degree of precision is ideally achieved by using the robot, and it’s the primary reason for evaluation of robotic applications for vasectomy reversal.

Although the method doesn’t cut procedural or recovery times, surgical researchers like Lin are interested in its potential to offer men an earlier return and higher concentration of sperm, which according to him “theoretically increases the likelihood of natural pregnancy.”

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