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On call: Back surgery and retrograde ejaculation

October 1, 2006

On call

Back surgery and retrograde ejaculation

Q. I am a 42-year-old former basketball player. Six months ago, I had a spinal fusion with the keyhole operation. My back pain is nearly gone and I feel great, but I've had dry ejaculations ever since the operation. Why does this happen?

A. The "keyhole" operation is the newest and least invasive way for doctors to stabilize the spine by fusing adjacent vertebrae. The operation requires only very small incisions. The surgeon inserts a fiber-optic laparoscope, which allows him to view the spine on a video monitor. Next, he inserts special instruments that enable him to correct the tissue damage. The operation requires special training as well as special equipment, but it allows a rapid recovery with few complications. Unfortunately, retrograde ejaculation is one of those complications. Men with the problem experience normal arousal, erections, and orgasm, but their semen travels back into the bladder instead of shooting out through the penis.

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