— -- The nation's first uterus transplant was performed this week, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Staff that included transplant and gynecological surgeons worked for nine hours Wednesday to transplant a donor uterus into a 26-year-old woman. The organ was from a deceased donor, according to the Ohio medical center.
The operation was the first in a study that started last fall. The women who were considered for the procedure are unable to carry a pregnancy to term because of uterine factor infertility, which means the uterus had abnormalities that included fibroids, scarring, genetic malformations or that it never developed.
“Women who are coping with UFI [uterine factor infertility] have few existing options,” Dr. Tommaso Falcone, an obstetrician-gynecologist and Cleveland Clinic Women’s Health Institute chairman, said in a statement last year. “Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons.”
While the operation was a first in the United States, other uterus transplants have occurred in Sweden and Turkey. Four births have occurred in Sweden after nine uterus transplants, according to a previous statement by the Cleveland Clinic.
Although the procedure could be some women’s only chance to carry their child to term, it is not without serious difficulties. To undergo the process, a woman will have her eggs retrieved via in vitro fertilization and frozen.
After undergoing an operation, the woman has to remain on immune system-suppressing drugs so that her body does not reject the organ. She’ll also have to under monthly biopsies.
Any infant conceived will have to be delivered by Caesarian section and after, at most, two children, the uterus will be removed so the woman does not have to face a life time of medication.
“Unlike any other transplants, they are ‘ephemeral,’” said Cleveland Clinic lead investigator Dr. Andreas Tzakis said in a statement last year. “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.”
The hospital did not identify the recipient of the first uterus transplant in the United States.