The first uterus transplant in the United States, which took place at the Cleveland Clinic just last month, has failed. CNN reports that the recipient, a 26-year-old woman known only as Lindsey, had to have the transplanted uterus removed due to “a complication.” The Cleveland Clinic made the announcement Wednesday, March 9.
The operation, which allowed Lindsey to be the first person in the United States to undergo a uterus transplant, took nine hours to complete; so far, the nature of the complication that led to the failure of the donor organ is under review and further details about the complication have not been released by the clinic.
“We are saddened to share that our patient, Lindsey, recently experienced a sudden complication that led to the removal of her transplanted uterus.”
The clinic did divulge that the recipient of the first U.S. uterus transplant is recovering from her dual procedures and is “doing well.”
After receiving the uterus transplant but before losing the organ, Lindsey spoke to the media about her experience. In a statement, given from her wheelchair and in the company of her husband Blake, she told the world about her life prior to receiving the first uterus transplant in U.S. history, and what the transplant meant for her life going forward.
“I was 16 and was told I would never have children and from that moment on, I’ve prayed that God would allow me that opportunity to experience pregnancy. And here we are today at the beginning of that journey.”
Just days later, the news broke that the uterus transplant had failed, once again leaving her without the opportunity to experience pregnancy. She thanked her doctors for their quick action and consideration, and confirmed to the media that she had lost the transplanted uterus due to “complications.”
“Unfortunately, I did lose the uterus to complications. However, I am doing okay and appreciate all of your prayers and good thoughts.”
Lindsey’s need for a uterus transplant came as the result of suffering from a condition known as uterine factor infertility, or UFI. In UFI cases, a woman is unable to gestate due to being born without a uterus, has lost her uterus or has a non-functioning uterus. Currently, UFI is considered an “irreversible condition,” and it impacts 3-5 percent of women around the globe.
In Lindsey’s case, she was born without a uterus.
The Cleveland Clinic announced in November a first of its kind (in the United States) research study. During the study, the clinic would transplant uteri into 10 women suffering from UFI. Lindsey was the first of the 10 women to receive a uterus transplant, and the study is expected to continue on despite the complications that resulted in Lindsey’s uterus transplant failing.
It is too early to tell if Lindsey will ever again be a candidate for a uterus transplant, or if she will have to give up on her dream of getting pregnant and gestating a child. She and her husband are already parents, however, to three adopted sons.
While uterus transplant technology is in its infancy in the United States, with Lindsey being the first uterus transplant patient in the nation, Sweden has had some notable success with the procedure, giving hope to millions of women worldwide. According to reports, doctors at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg have completed a total of nine uteri with some very promising results.
Of the nine women who have received uterus transplants in Sweden, five have become pregnant. Of those five pregnancies, four resulted in live births.
If Lindsey’s uterus transplant had not failed, it was still expected to have only been a temporary addition to her body, reports The Guardian.
“The focus of this procedure is not on the uterus. It’s on women and children and families.”
According to the parameters of the uterus transplant research study, the transplanted uterus would have been removed from Lindsey’s body following a successful pregnancy (or possibly two). She had been expected to remain hospitalized for one to two months following a successful uterus transplant, then to “heal under supervision” for about a year before her transplanted uterus would be ready to support a healthy pregnancy.
Women participating in the uterus transplant study would get pregnant via in vitro fertilization (or IVF); each participant in the uterus transplant study “banked” between six and 10 embryos prior to participating in the study. The plan is for one of those embryos to be transferred into the transplanted uteri until a healthy pregnancy is achieved, beginning one year after their successful uterus transplant.
Women who do get pregnant following their uterus transplant will be monitored very closely throughout gestation, and all babies will be born via C-section. Following a maximum of two pregnancies, the transplanted uteri will be removed from recipients. Obviously, in cases such as Lindsey’s, if complications with the transplanted organs arise, the transplanted uterus will be removed immediately if it’s deemed necessary to do so.
Obviously, not every uterus transplant case will have a happy ending. Like any organ transplant, a uterus transplant is very complicated procedure and the potential for complications is very real. In the case of the first uterus transplant in the United States, unfortunately those complications resulted in the loss of the organ.
[Image Courtesy Of @upbeatstories/Twitter]