Vasectomy message boards…are they helpful? Well…yes and no.

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Online themes focus on relaying personal experience or to obtain information on expectations after vasectomy.

I was told by a lawn management consultant that the soccer field I was trying to improve was of the “Heinz 57” variety. In other words a mixture of many types of grass and weeds. Decision making in medicine, and having a vasectomy and who will do it,  is often the result of the accumulation of a hodgepodge of information.

I have told my prostate caner patients for years to learn from the internet, friends, family, books and yes…wait for it…your doctor to arrive at a decision about your medical care that is best for you. Getting a vasectomy is no different. So…take what you get from others, all others, with a proverbial grain of salt!  J.M.

Background: Patients are increasingly utilizing the internet to gain knowledge and information about disease states and treatments.

Objective: To identify common themes and usages of online message boards focused on vasectomy.

Design: Review of online content from patients.

Methods: Using the search term “vasectomy,” internet discussion boards were identified. The 3 discussion boards with the most posts were selected for investigation. An iterative and structured analysis process was undertaken to determine common themes.

Results: 129 posts from the 3 message boards were examined. The 2 most common topics were changes in sexual function after vasectomy and pain after vasectomy. Changes in sexual function included a variety of concerns including unexpected genital or sexual issues arising after vasectomy. Declines in sexual drive, erection quality, and orgasmic or ejaculatory changes were described. Posts relating to pain around vasectomy discussed concerns related to a “normal” amount of postprocedural pain or how to manage pain after vasectomy. Other topics included planning for postvasectomy care, potential issues after vasectomy, and feelings about a vasectomy. Overall, online content roughly divided into 2 uses – sharing personal experiences regarding vasectomy and to get information about what to expect, and how to manage issues that may arise after vasectomy. Medical provider input was not seen, and while some factual content was identified, personal opinion was more common.

Conclusions: Internet message boards on vasectomy focus on information exchange and personal experience. Factual content is limited, and medical provider input is uncommon.

Reviewer’s Comments: This is an interesting study that analyzes how men use the internet to discuss vasectomy. I am generally positive on patients using the internet to gain a functional knowledge of medical conditions if they are open to additional education during our visit. The use here of patients being able to relate to other men either before or after their vasectomy is a benefit as this personal type of interaction is not part of the usual patient-physician interaction. Online message board content is of course subject to the patients who decide to post and may be skewed by patients with poor outcomes. The aforesaid findings can potentially help providers counsel patients on expectations after vasectomy.(Reviewer–Charles Welliver, MD).

Article Reviewed: A Thematic Analysis of Online Discussion Boards for Vasectomy. Samplaski MK: Urology; 2018;111 (January): 32-38.

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