While a vasectomy is a quick and highly effective birth-control procedure for men, the idea of surgery on one’s testicles, however brief, can be a bit of a mental hurdle for some guys. But what if there’s a way to get this surgery with built-in moral support? To ease the anxiety, men are starting to turn vasectomies into social activities with friends, getting the procedure done one after another before recuperating together. Group vasectomies might actually have some pain-relieving perks, but it’s also just more fun to recover with a pal around.
The urologist Paul Turek has coined a word for this type of social procedure: brosectomy. Turek, who says he pioneered this strategy in 2013 at his California clinic, told me the idea came to him while he was surfing and realized that he felt more comfortable riding uncomfortably large waves when he was with his friends. “Things are better when someone’s got your back,” he says. “I think the same feeling is present in brosectomies: Good friends sharing a potentially uncomfortable or anxiety-provoking situation make things better.”
And Turek isn’t the only urologist catering to the buddy system. More and more clinics seem to be offering this type of group surgery. While there are no data on the prevalence of brosectomies, roughly 500,000 men in the United States get a vasectomy each year. As women balk at long-term, hormonal birth control, sterilization is seen as an enticing replacement for couples. And if that’s the route they choose, it’s vastly easier on men than on women, for whom getting their tubes tied is major, costly surgery. John Lambrechts’s wife gave birth to two boys, “both by C-section,” says Lambrechts, who got a brosectomy in late 2016. “It was the least I could do.”
In the typical brosectomy, two or more friends anxiously arrive at the urology clinic of their choice. After getting back-to-back surgeries—the procedure takes only a couple of minutes—they either head to a hotel to recover or spend the rest of the day lazing around the clinic, where they might watch sports or movies, enjoy a decadent dinner, and knock back some booze. The specifics differ from brosectomy to brosectomy, but the core idea remains the same: that friends are going through the experience together.
“I’ve had guys rent hotel rooms to recover with their bros while the wife stays home with the kids,” says Jesse Mills, director of the Men’s Clinic at UCLA. “They can commiserate and give each other a hard time while they’re getting room service and ice packs delivered.” In McLean, Virginia, the luxury clinic Obsidian Men’s Health provides stiff drinks and televised sports for guys while they recover. And clinics across the country are similarly rolling out the red carpet for men who want a high-end group vasectomy.
While a basic vasectomy is often covered by insurance, the added brosectomy extras are all on the patient’s dime. It’s not surprising, then, that the trend seems to be mostly popular with the well-to-do.
Turek told me that patients typically choose to get brosectomies on Fridays so they can take the weekend to recover. And March seems to be a popular time of the year for vasectomies and brosectomies alike. “The uptick in March is most likely related to March Madness and having a good reason to lie on the couch for a couple of days and watch some b-ball,” says Turek. If you have to be a couch potato for a couple of days, why not confine yourself during a major sporting event? And why not recruit some friends to join you? (Indeed, the healthcare company Athenahealth has reported a 30 percent surge in vasectomies across its network during March Madness.)
Men are seeking out brosectomies for the simple reason that going into the procedure with a friend can help them muster the courage to actually get it done. Even though vasectomies are a common and minimally invasive surgery, there’s still a lingering stigma around the procedure, which may be one reason men in the United States get it done at lower rates than men in most other industrialized countries.
“For a man who is fearful of getting it done, having a friend doing it also certainly helps,” says Adam Goodman, a Los Angeles–based father of two who got a brosectomy from Turek. “Any uncomfortable apprehension that may come along with having anything done in that region perhaps gets overshadowed, if not replaced, with the experience of doing it with a friend. The plan was to wait out the pain and suffering of the procedure while playing video games, watching movies, drinking, or popping pills when needed. The good news was that neither of us had any significant pain.”
Tony Prestigiacomo, who got a brosectomy with Goodman, says having his close friend nearby was a helpful distraction while he recovered. “What’s better than that?” he told me. “Another guy who is experiencing the same thing who can sympathize with you and find a solution to ease the pain.” The duo got the surgeries done on a Friday so they could spend the weekend together at a hotel. “No judgments, no bickering, no one telling you what to do, and no accidental kid jumping in your lap,” he says of their time together. And, as Goodman adds, “sitting at home alone healing seemed more like a chore. We just hung out, drank some beers, and enjoyed each other’s company for two whole days.”
The companionship actually might have medical benefits, too. Turek says he’s noticed that men who get a brosectomy need fewer pain killers afterward. “My men average two pain pills after the procedure,” he says of his patients, “and brosectomy patients average zero to one pill in total afterward.”
The psychologist Melody Lowman told me that when men opt to get vasectomies together, the built-in support mechanism can help mitigate their anxiety, and thus lessen the need for pain medication. “Pain has been said to be a combination of sensation and anxiety,” she says. “If anxiety is reduced, then pain is likely to be reduced as well.”
For some men, a brosectomy is less about easing the fear and pain than it is about just spending some quality time with a close friend. Rob Clyde, who received a brosectomy from Turek, says the camaraderie was the biggest draw for him. The best part, he told me, was “coming together [with a pal] that morning and just being together and talking about it, and laughing and making fun of it.”