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Doctors perform the first US uterus transplant

The procedure may help some women who are infertile give birth

Cleveland Clinic

The first US uterus transplant was performed at the Cleveland Clinic on Wednesday, doctors announced yesterday. The operation — which has been performed in Sweden before — is a treatment that allows women who were born without a uterus or who have a uterus that no longer functions to give birth. Scientists estimate that about 500,000 women in the US are transplant candidates.

The nine-hour-long operation was performed on a 26-year-old patient whose identity has not been released. The uterus came from a deceased donor, and the recipient was in stable condition on Thursday afternoon, the clinic said in a statement. It will take a year for her to heal, and only then will she be able to become pregnant through in vitro fertilization (some of her eggs were removed before the transplant). To prevent her body from rejecting the uterus, the patient will have to take anti-rejection drugs — but she won't have to do so for the rest of her life. Her doctors plan to remove the uterus after she has one or two children.

(Cleveland Clinic)

Nine women in Sweden have had this operation, and four of them have had children. These babies were born premature, but healthy, The New York Times reports. In the US, the procedure is considered experimental; the ethics panel at the Cleveland Clinic granted surgeons permission to perform just 10 uterus transplants. If those surgeries go well, the clinic may decide to do them on a regular basis. Doctors at the clinic are still recruiting candidates for these transplants.