Surgeons in Cleveland have performed the nation's first uterus transplant, on a 26-year-old woman, using a uterus from a deceased donor.
Women with uterine factor infertility (UFI), meaning they were born without a uterus or with uterine abnormalities that block pregnancy can go for a uterus transplant.
"Women who are coping with UFI have few existing options," said Dr. Tommaso Falcone, Chair of the Women's Health Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. "Although adoption and surrogacy provide opportunities for parenthood, both pose logistical challenges and may not be acceptable due to personal, cultural or legal reasons."
"Unlike any other transplants, they are 'ephemeral. 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," said Tzakis.
As the major arteries also must be removed, the surgery requires more than a normal hysterectomy,. 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.
If a woman is approved for a transplant, she would first have to have eggs removed from her ovaries, like is done for in vitro fertilization, and then freeze the embryos. Those could be implanted only 12 months after the transplant heals, if it's successful.