You would think that with all the hysterectomies done in the United States, no one wants a uterus.
Hysterectomy is the second most common operation performed in the United States. About 556,000 of these surgeries are done annually. By age 60, approximately one out of every three American women will have had a hysterectomy. Yet it's estimated that 30 percent of hysterectomies are unnecessary.
However, new technology may make it possible for women who don't have a functioning uterus to have one transplanted.
A group of physicians in New York say that transplant technology for vital organs such as the liver, kidney, heart, and lungs has advanced enough to allow transplants of the uterus, a nonvital organ, according to a study published in the January issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology. To support their argument, they point out that reproductive organ transplants (ovaries and fallopian tubes) have already successfully occurred. Their study details their newly developed technique that allows the retrieval of necessary blood vessels to be used for the uterus transplantation.
Research approval for the human uterus transplant project was received from the New York Downtown Hospital Institutional Review Board and the New York Organ Donor Network. The researchers looked at the results of multi-organ transplantation retrievals in 150 organ donors, nine of whom consented to donating their uterus. Eight were successful, meaning that the uterus was removed from a multi-organ donor whose heart was beating but who was brain-dead. None of the uteri were actually transplanted.
Although assisted reproductive technology has helped many infertile women become pregnant and deliver healthy babies, there are women with no functional uterus who would like to become pregnant. The researchers admit that nonvital organ transplantation raises major ethical concerns, but point out that hand and face transplants have already been done. Only one uterine transplant has been done in humans, and it survived for three months.
There is still a lot more work needed in this area. But you would think with all the issues that come with having a uterus, I'm not so sure this type of transplant will be in high demand.