Cleveland Clinic recently announced that it plans to become the first U.S. health care facility that performs uterus transplants. The new procedure can help women with a rare condition to become pregnant and give birth. But it can also help patients that had their uterus removed or damaged for various reasons.
Doctors explained that the uterus, which would be taken from a dead donor, would be only a temporary solution. The organ will be removed after the woman had one or two pregnancies since anti-rejection drugs are required for her body to not reject the uterus the entire time.
The procedure may benefit about 50,000 women in the U.S. alone. Yet, the surgery has some risks and limitations. Women will need to take anti-rejection drugs for an organ transplant that it is not absolutely necessary to save their lives. They will also face risks of surgery twice.
Additionally, there is no guarantee that pregnancies will reach due date since there is little data on the effects of anti-rejection drugs on unborn children and no data on how well a baby would develop inside the uterus taken from a dead donor. Plus, because the fallopian tubes cannot be linked to the transplanted uterus, mothers will need to undergo in vitro fertilization.
Cleveland Clinic announced that there are eight candidates enlisted for the transplant. The women will be screened before being accepted. One of the candidates who has two adopted children said that she wants to undergo the procedure because she wants to know what it feels to be pregnant and give birth. The woman found out that she was born without a uterus in her teens. The condition affects 1 in 4,500 women.
The clinic said that it would perform 10 procedures before deciding on whether to continue. But the team of surgeons involved in the project hope to make the procedure available in the U.S., as well.
So far, the only place on Earth where uterine transplants were successful is Sweden. But uteruses were taken from live donors. To date, nine patients underwent surgery and four gave birth. All babies were born healthy but premature. Two organs, however, had to be removed because a dangerous blood clot and an infection threatened the mothers’ lives.
The procedure had been previously tested by Saudi and Turkish doctors on two occasions. Both of them failed. Other clinics in the U.S. and U.K. said that they would try the procedure, as well.
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