India’s first uterine transplant begins

A team of 12 doctors at the city’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) began the highly complex and delicate procedure of India’s first uterine transplant on a woman from Solapur district on Thursday.

However, the operation, in which the uterus was retrieved from the donor and transplanted into the recipient around 9 a.m., stretched well beyond its projected eight-hour duration. The surgeons are retrieving the uterus using a laparoscopic technique. None of the doctors, including Dr. Shailesh Puntambekar, Medical Director, GCLI, who is heading the surgery, was available for comment on the operation at the time of going to press.

The GCLI administration informed the media late in the evening that results would be known on Friday.

The woman suffers from congenital absence of uterus since birth and is to be fitted with her mother’s womb to enable her to conceive normally.

Earlier, Dr. Puntambekar said the recipient would remain in the ICU for a week and for a fortnight in the general care following the surgery.

More tests

“During this period, the transplanted uterus will be studied,” he said. The immediate success of the surgery could be assessed after sonography studies which would determine whether the transplanted uterus was getting regular blood flow and functioning normally.

The hospital, which has been granted a licence by the State Directorate of Health Services to carry out the uterus transplant, is scheduled to conduct another womb transplant on Friday on a 24-year-old woman from Baroda who suffers from Asherman’s Syndrome (scar tissue in the uterus) and who will receive her mother’s womb.

Still in its nascent, experimental stage, only a handful of these operations have met with success in other countries, primarily in Sweden.

The operations are meant to help women who want to conceive but cannot because they were born without a uterus, suffered damage to it or had to have it removed.

The 20-odd uterine transplant operations round the world have often been frustrated by organ rejection (in which the patient’s immune system attacks the organ; an infection of the organ; or problems with the organ’s blood supply.)

Note of concern

Some experts have expressed concern about the operations, terming them an invasive surgical procedure fraught with risks manifested in adverse side effects of the anti-rejection drugs, including cancer and increased risk of opportunistic infection.

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