Doctors at a Pune hospital conducted India’s first uterus transplant on Thursday, transplanting the uterus of a 44-year-old woman from Solapur into her 21-year-old daughter, who was unable to conceive. While both donor and recipient were in good health after the surgery, doctors said it would take a month to determine if the surgery was complete success – that is, if the transplanted organ functioned normally and the woman was able to conceive.
Twelve doctors at Pune’s Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute (GCLI) conducted the surgery, which began at 12.30pm and ended at 9.30pm. “We retrieved the uterus from mother and successfully transplanted it into the daughter. Both donor and recipient are doing fine and are under observation,” Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, medical director, GCLI, told Hindustan Times.
The surgeons retrieved the donor’s uterus using minimally invasive (laparoscopic) surgery, which shortened the duration of the procedure from the normal 12 hours to nine hours.
After screening the patients, doctors removed the donor’s uterus and transplanted into the recipient, who underwent three surgeries. If the transplanted organ functions normally, the woman will be able conceive through in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and deliver through a caesarian section. She will have to take immno-suppressant drugs for the rest of her life to prevent her body from rejecting the uterus. “The success of the transplant can be assessed after a month when recipient will undergo sonography and other tests to ensure the fitted uterus is functioning properly or not,” said Dr Puntambekar.
The transplant had earlier been criticised by a Swedish doctor who performed the world’s first successful uterus transplant surgery. Dr Mats Brännström said the procedure was being done with “no proper preparations at all” and would put the patients at “very high risk”. He said, “What is planned in Pune is a dangerous escapade of surgical cowboys wanting to be the first in their country and to get (worldwide) publicity and fame easy.”
Dr Brännström is head of obstetrics and gynecology at Sweden’s Sahlgrenska Academy, under the University of Gothenburg. He led the world’s first successful uterus transplant in Sweden in 2012. In 2014, the recipient gave birth to the world’s first baby from a transplanted uterus. The boy, delivered with a caesarian section, was healthy. He said a similar attempt in China by the country’s top laparoscopy surgeon two months ago ended with the recipient’s death.
Dr Puntambekar said that his surgical team had travelled to Sweden to learn the transplant procedure and practised on human cadavers in Germany and the US. But Dr Brännström said his own team practised on animals, including sheep, pigs and baboons, for 15 years before taking their first case, something the Indian doctors “have ignored completely”. “That is the great difference. We advise all groups around the world to choose one large animal for team and surgery training (before performing it on humans),” he said.
But Dr Puntambekar said the procedure would not harm the recipient or – if she conceives – her baby.