The first uterus transplant across the United States has been performed with flying colors at the Cleveland Clinic, it has been revealed on Thursday, February 25.
The highly complex and demanding medical procedure took place on Wednesday, and was completed by a team of transplant surgeons and gynecologists led by Andreas G. Tzakis.
The uterus transplant extended across 9 hours, and the patient was a 26-year old woman, whose identity hasn’t been released to the public.
As explained by representatives of the non-profit medical center where the surgery took place, the organ was harvested from a donor who had passed away, and the uterus recipient is now feeling well, her condition having been listed as stable.
A lengthy process of rehabilitation looms ahead, given the fact that it is expected that several months will have to pass for menstruation to commence, and around a year will elapse until the newly implanted organ can function normally.
Once this phase is reached, doctors will transfer embryos created thanks to in vitro fertilization into the patient’s womb, and as the pregnancy unfolds, the young woman will have to undergo treatment based on immunosuppressive agents, to ensure that fetal development can continue without any difficulty.
The uterus transplant will actually be just a short-term solution, doctors saying that the patient will no longer be administered anti-rejection medication such as corticosteroids, azathioprine and tacrolimus after giving birth to one or two babies.
Instead, the organ will be surgically extracted, or absorbed by the body, as the immune system attacks the foreign tissue. This way, patients won’t have to be exposed for too long to immunosuppressants, which can often heighten the risk of infections, as well as the likelihood of developing cancer.
Apparently, 9 other uterus transplants have been scheduled to take place at the Cleveland Clinic, as part of an experimental trial conducted by the medical center, and while such a procedure may have been unprecedented in the United States, it has already been carried out in Turkey and Sweden with great success.
In September 2014, a 35-year old woman from Sweden, who had undergone this type of surgical procedure less than 2 years before, delivered a baby boy via C-section, and both the mother and the child are now healthy and well.
On the heels of that first instance when an infant was brought to term by a woman who received a uterus transplant, four other kids have been born under similar circumstances, in Swedish medical centers.
As representatives of the Cleveland Clinic argue, the procedure gives hope to patients suffering from Uterine Factor Infertility (UFI), a condition marked by congenital absence of the uterus (the Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome) or impaired function of this organ (often resulting in a hysterectomy).
Up until now, women with UFI could only adopt babies or turn to surrogacy, but now they will be able to finally experience pregnancy and deliver a baby themselves.
Some have criticized the fact that such transplants are being conducted, claiming that the uterus isn’t such a vital organ, being important just in ensuring better quality of life, without affecting the individual’s survival in any way.
For instance, Dr. Michael Green, affiliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital, has argued that shelling out money for uterus transplants may not be the most advisable investment, especially since surrogacy can be used instead.
However, officials at the Cleveland Clinic have explained that American women who enlist the services of a surrogate mother are usually required to jump through a lot of legal hoops before this process is finalized, and in some other nations the procedure is strictly forbidden.
Even more, some women affected by UFI may actually wish to go through all the manifestations associated with pregnancy, from the more unpleasant ones such as morning sickness, leg cramps or sore breasts to the more endearing ones, like feeling the baby’s first movements.
Image Source: Flickr