A team of surgeons at the Cleveland Clinic performed the first uterus transplant in the United States this week.
A 26-year-old woman received the new womb in a nine-hour operation, the hospital said in a statement. She was reported in stable condition Thursday.
The transplanted uterus came from a deceased organ donor.
The Cleveland Clinic announced a research study in November in which it would perform uterus transplants on 10 women with uterine factor infertility.
UFI is a condition where a woman cannot carry a pregnancy because she was born without a uterus, has lost her uterus, or has a uterus that no longer functions. It’s an irreversible condition affecting 3% to 5% of women worldwide.
“Women who are coping with UFI have few existing options,” Tommaso Falcone, chairman of the Department of Obstetrics-Gynecology at Cleveland Clinic, said when the clinical trial was announced. “Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons.”
A route to pregnancy
The transplant is one of many steps in a complex process.
Before it takes place, the woman’s eggs are harvested, fertilized and frozen for implantation later in the new uterus.
These are some of the other steps, according to the Cleveland Clinic:
— Over 12 months, the transplanted uterus fully heals.
— One year after transplant, the frozen embryos are then thawed and implanted, one at a time, into the patient until she becomes pregnant.
— During her pregnancy, she takes anti-rejection drugs.
— She is monitored by a high-risk obstetrics team throughout pregnancy and delivery.
— She has a monthly cervical biopsy to check for organ rejection.
— The baby is delivered by cesarean section.
— After one to two babies, she has a hysterectomy to remove the transplanted uterus.
— Her anti-rejection drugs are stopped after the hysterectomy.
Pioneered in Sweden
While this is the first uterus transplant in the United States, a team of doctors at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden has performed nine of them.
Five of the women have gotten pregnant, resulting in four live births.
The Cleveland Clinic is hopeful for its own program after taking part in the Swedish trials.
“The exciting work from the investigators in Sweden demonstrated that uterine transplantation can result in the successful delivery of healthy infants,” said Andreas Tzakis, the lead investigator in the Cleveland study.