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Surgeons in Cleveland have performed a uterus transplant for the first time in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. In a statement last week, the Cleveland Clinic said doctors performed a nine-hour surgery on a 26-year-old woman with a uterus from a deceased donor.
The hospital had been planning for such a surgery since last fall. The set a goal of doing 10 uterus transplant operations.
The medical team isn't the first to perform the surgeries in the world. Surgeons in Sweden were the first to report a successful birth from a transplanted uterus. Since 2014, five healthy babies have been born via one woman's uterus transplanted into another woman.
It's still an experimental treatment, doctors say, but a promising alternative for the thousands of women who were either born without a uterus or lost theirs due to a disease, and were unable to conceive.
To got from prospective transplant recipient to pregnant woman, women are required to take a few steps in preparation. First, eggs are extracted from their ovaries. Those eggs are fertilized and the viable embryos frozen. Next, comes the surgery.
Doctors retrieve more than the uterus from donors. They also have to surgically remove the major arteries, which deliver blood to the organ. The organ and blood vessels are then sewn inside the recipient's pelvis and doctors check the blood flow and strength of the attached ligaments to make sure everything can stay in place through nine months of pregnancy.
Recipients must then wait 12 months until the embryos are transferred in the hopes of becoming pregnant.
The transplants aren't permanent. Instead, they're what medicine refers to as "ephemeral" procedures. After one or two healthy pregnancies, another surgery is required to remove it.
Critics of this procedure say, unlike a kidney transplant, isn't required for survival and that the risks are high with it, as is the case with any transplant procedure.