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    First US uterus transplant attempt ends in disappointment

    Editor's note: This article has been updated. A Cleveland Clinic statement released on Wednesday, March 9 read: 

    “We are saddened to share that our patient, Lindsey, recently experienced a sudden complication that led to the removal of her transplanted uterus. 
    On February 25, Cleveland Clinic announced the first uterus transplant as part of a clinical study for women who suffer from uterine factor infertility. At this time, the circumstance of the complication is under review and more information will be shared as it becomes available.
    There is a known risk in solid organ transplantation that the transplanted organ may have to be removed should a complication arise. The medical team took all necessary precautions and measures to ensure the safety of our patient.
    While this has been difficult for both the patient and the medical team, Lindsey is doing well and recovering.
    The study, which has been planned to include 10 women, is still ongoing with a commitment to the advancement of medical research to provide an additional option for women and their families.”

    Below is the article as it appeared on March 8.

    At a history-making press conference on March 7, the first recipient in the United States of a uterus transplant thanked the team at Cleveland Clinic that performed the procedure.

    “I would like to take a moment to express the immense gratitude I feel towards my donor’s family. They have provided me with a gift that I will never be able to repay,” said the 26-year-old patient, named Lindsey, who was wheeled into the event by her husband, Blake. (The couple has asked that their last name and other details about them not be revealed in an effort to protect their privacy and that of their 3 adopted children.) 

    At age 16, Lindsey was told that she would never have children due to congenital absence of the uterus. “From that moment on,” she said, “I have prayed that God would allow me the opportunity to experience pregnancy. And here we are today at the beginning of that journey. I am so thankful to this amazing team of doctors, all of the nurses and staff who have worked around the clock to ensure my safety.” 

    The surgical team poses with the transplant recipient and her husband.

    The Cleveland Clinic team is building on the success of Mats Brännström, MD, PhD, and his team in Sweden, who have seen 5 babies born to mothers with transplanted uteruses. The women in the Swedish trial received uterus transplants from living relatives (most often their mothers; notably, the oldest donor was 60). The Cleveland group is using uteruses from deceased donors.

    See also: Transplantation: The end of absolute uterine-factor infertility?


    NEXT: More details and next steps >>

    Susan C. Olmstead
    Ms. Olmstead is the Editorial Director of Contemporary OB/GYN.

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    • Anonymous
      Uterine transplantation is a triumph of surgical expertise over good judgement and justice. The procedure has a cost to the patient: multiple operations, immunosuppressive drugs, potential failure to conceive, and the risk of pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and prematurity. There is a cost to the fetus: the few babies born so far have been prematurely born after complications in pregnancy, and this prematurity can be fatal or result in lifelong morbidity. There is a cost to society: the associated procedures cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, plus the potential costs of the medical care of a premie. And what are the benefits? A woman gets to experience the feelings of pregnancy. Really? This is definitely a first world problem, and social justice would require that doctors say no to this procedure and invest the money in improving third world health. If a man decides that he wants to experience the feelings of being pregnant, is uterus transplantation into him a justified procedure? He is also born without a uterus. Society should not abandon women born without a uterus. Instead, the costs of IVF and a surrogate carrier for one child should be born by society, and any children after that should be paid for by the patient.


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