The surgeons say if all goes well, the recipient will undergo embryo transfer later this year with the hopes of carrying a baby to term.
According to the Imperial College of London, one in 5,000 women in the United Kingdom are born without a functioning uterus, and many more are unable to conceive and bear children due to surgical removal of their wombs.
Uterus transplants have the potential to provide these individuals an opportunity to carry a pregnancy to term. The first transplant of this type occurred in Sweden in 2013. Since then, surgeons have performed around 100 womb transplants worldwide, resulting in the birth of 50 babies.
Now, after 25 years of research, surgeons, and scientists from the UK announced that they have successfully performed the country's first womb transplant on a 34-year-old woman with Type I Mayer–Rokitansky–Küster–Hauser syndrome — a rare congenital condition that causes a female to have an underdeveloped or nonexistent uterus.
The procedure was part of the UK living donor program, and following approval from the Human Tissue Authority, the donor operation and transplant surgery occurred at the Oxford Transplant Centre at OUH's Churchill Hospital.
The operation occurred on a Sunday in early 2023 with a volunteer surgical and anesthetic team. Surgical team members report that the uterus retrieval and subsequent transplantation procedures took nearly 18 hours to complete.
Moreover, the transplant recipient received the womb from her 40-year-old sister.
Barring complications, the recipient will undergo an embryo transfer with her previously harvested fertilized eggs. The transfer is expected to happen near the end of 2023 at the Lister Fertility Clinic in London — part of HCA Healthcare UK.
If clinicians confirm the transfer was successful, specialists at an antenatal clinic at Queen Charlotte's and Chelsea Hospital will monitor the pregnancy and delivery.
"It is still very early days, but if all continues to go well, we hope the recipient will continue to progress, and be in a position to have a baby in the coming years," said Professor Richard Smith, a consultant gynecological surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Professor of Practice at Imperial College London. Smith was also co-leader of the transplant surgical team.
The team hopes that this procedure becomes more commonplace so more women can have the opportunity to carry and deliver a baby.
Smith adds, "Any further transplants will depend on the willingness of suitable donors and funding for the operations, which comes through Womb Transplant UK. However, we very much hope we will be able to help other women born without or with underdeveloped wombs in the near future."
- Imperial College London. Imperial Professor co-leads UK's first womb transplant operation.
- BJOG. Living donor uterus transplant in the UK: A case report.