WASHINGTON, Feb 26, (AFP): The United States has completed its first uterus transplant surgery, following on a technique already proven in Sweden that could help women suffering from infertility, the Cleveland Clinic said Thursday. The nine-hour surgery took place on February 24, and the 26-year-old patient — whose identity was not revealed — was in stable condition, the hospital said in a statement. The transplanted uterus came from a deceased donor. More details about the surgery are expected during a press conference with the medical team to be scheduled next week in Cleveland, Ohio.
Late last year, Cleveland Clinic began enlisting candidates for uterine transplants as part of a clinical trial that aimed to offer the procedure to 10 women. Women potentially eligible to receive a uterine transplant include those who suffer from an irreversible condition known as Uterine Factor Infertility (UFI), which affects between three and five percent of women worldwide, the hospital said. Sweden’s University of Gothenburg achieved its first birth via a transplanted uterus in September 2014.
Other countries have tried womb transplants ó Sweden reported the first successful birth in 2014, with a total of five healthy babies so far. Doctors there say the still experimental treatment might be an alternative for some of the thousands of women unable to have children because they were born without a uterus or lost it to disease. Others have questioned whether such an extreme step would be a realistic option for many women.
It’s fraught with medical risk, including rejection of the transplant and having to take potent immune-suppressing drugs for a transplant that, unlike patients who receive a donated kidney or heart, isn’t life-saving. The Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Andreas Tzakis said the risks aren’t greater than those for other transplants but is considered life-enhancing, like transplants of the face or hand. One important difference: “Unlike any other transplants, they are ‘ephemeral,’” Tzakis said last year in a statement announcing the study.
“They are not intended to last for the duration of the recipient’s life, but will be maintained for only as long as is necessary to produce one or two children.” Removing a uterus from a deceased donor requires more than a normal hysterectomy, as the major arteries also must be removed. The womb and blood vessels are sewn inside the recipient’s pelvis. Before closing the abdomen, surgeons check for good blood flow and that the attachment to the ligaments is strong enough to maintain a pregnancy