First U.S. patient to undergo uterus transplant has organ removed

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CLEVELAND–The first patient in the United States to receive a uterus transplant had to have the organ removed because of complications, the Cleveland Clinic announced Wednesday.

Lindsey, a 26-year-old mother of three adopted children who did not release her last name, received the new womb in a nine-hour operation last month, and appeared in public to announce the transplant on Monday.

“We are saddened to share that our patient, Lindsey, recently experienced a sudden complication that led to the removal of her transplanted uterus,” the Cleveland Clinic said.

The circumstances that led to the complication are under review.

Lindsey has uterine factor infertility; she was born without a uterus but has normal ovaries that produce healthy eggs. She is not alone, according to Dr. Tommaso Falcone, chairman of the Cleveland Clinic’s transplant center and an Ob-Gyn surgeon. One in 5,000 women are born without uteruses.

Prior to receiving the uterus, Lindsey underwent in vitro fertilization so she and Blake could bank about six to 10 embryos. Doctors planned to wait at least a year before they considered transferring one of those embryos into Lindsey’s transplanted uterus.

Doctors in Sweden have performed the experimental procedure using living donors, in some cases relatives, in nine women since 2012. There have been five successful live births.

Dr. Ruth Farrell, a bioethicist at the Cleveland Clinic, said the team is limiting the clinical trial to deceased donors to minimize the risks associated with the process, citing some complications among living donors. Falcone added that the doctors are looking at ways to minimize donor risks and could possibly turn to living donors in the future.

Doctors said Lindsey’s donor was a healthy woman in her 30s. Falcone said the process of screening the donor and the donor organ is no different than for other organs, such as the heart or liver.