The woman who received the first uterus transplant performed in the United States suffered a sudden complication that forced surgeons to remove the organ, the Cleveland Clinic announced Wednesday.
Just two days after she was introduced to much fanfare at a news conference, the 26-year-old woman, named Lindsey, is "doing well and recovering," the Cleveland Clinic said in a news release. A spokesman for the clinic said the emergency occurred Tuesday.
"I just wanted to take a moment to express my gratitude towards all of my doctors. They acted very quickly to ensure my health and safety," Lindsey said in the statement. "Unfortunately I did lose the uterus to complications. However, I am doing okay and appreciate all of your prayers and good thoughts.”
The transplant, performed Feb. 24, is part of a clinical trial that surgeons hoped would result in uterus transplants for 10 carefully screened recipients. It was unclear Wednesday whether Lindsey could still be a candidate for another transplant.
The news conference was held about two years after the world's first uterine transplant was conducted in Sweden. In October 2014, doctors there announced that one of the patients had delivered a healthy boy. Four more children have been born to the women there since.
The major difference between the U.S. and Swedish approaches is the use here of a deceased donor. In Lindsey's case, the donor was a woman in her 30s who had previously given birth and consented in advance to donate her organs, the doctors said. Ruth M. Farrell, an obstetrician and gynecologist who was part of the Cleveland Clinic team, said at Monday's news conference that there have been "some complications" for live uterus donors.
About one in 5,000 women is born without a uterus, doctors said. For those whose beliefs do not allow surrogacy or who do not want to adopt, uterine transplants offer the possibility of pregnancy and delivery. Lindsey said she and her husband, Blake, have three children whom they adopted through the foster care system.
Before each transplant, doctors must harvest eggs from the women, who have ovaries but no Fallopian tubes and therefore nowhere for the eggs they produce to go. The lack of Fallopian tubes also precludes pregnancy through sexual intercourse. The eggs are mixed with their partner's sperm to form early embryos, called blastocysts, and banked.
The uterus is harvested from a donor, cooled and transplanted quickly to minimize its time outside the body, said Andreas G. Tzakis, the surgeon who led the U.S. effort, said Monday. The procedure is more difficult than other kinds of transplantation because the blood vessels that must be reattached are deep inside the body, he said.