A team of eight surgeons has performed the UK’s first successful womb transplant during which a woman received a womb donated by her sister.
The procedure, described in detail in a scientific paper published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, (BJOG) took place at the Churchill Hospital, part of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, in February. The patient who is aged 34 and who lives in England and her sister donor, who is 40, are both fit and well. The patient has already frozen a number of embryos and all being well, it is hoped that an embryo transfer can go ahead later this year.
Two teams of surgeons were involved in the retrieval of the donor’s womb and its implantation into her sister during two overlapping operations that took over 17 hours.
The woman who received the womb, who wishes to remain anonymous, was unable to have children having been born without a functioning womb. One in 5,000 females are born in the UK with the same condition, called MRKH, (the Mayer-Rokitansky-Kuster-Hauser Syndrome). Many more women lose their wombs as a result of cancer or conditions such as endometriosis and it is known that more than 15,000 women of childbearing age in the UK, are also unable to bear their own children.
The operations were led by Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon, Professor Richard Smith from Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London and Consultant Transplant Surgeon, Miss Isabel Quiroga, from the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. A total of over thirty clinicians from both hospitals formed a special collaborative NHS team for the transplant.
Professor Smith, Chairman of the research charity, Womb Transplant UK, said the team was delighted with the progress of the patients. “We all have huge respect for these two women who have helped so many others in this country who face the trauma of absolute uterine fertility infertility. We hope all goes well and that the recipient will become pregnant in due course. We also hope that we can raise the rest of the funds we need to complete our two programmes of transplants. Our aim is to see womb transplants become a sustainable option for women suffering with the same condition.”
“Our team is dedicated to creating a long term and sustainable transplant programme that will help women who are currently unable to bear their own children to realise their dream!” he said.
Joint team Leader, Consultant Transplant Surgeon, Miss Isabel Quiroga, said the patient was ‘Incredibly happy!’ following the lengthy operation. “She was absolutely over the moon, very happy and is hoping that she can go in to have not one but two babies! Her womb is functioning perfectly and we are monitoring her progress very closely. As a team we are incredibly proud to contribute to this programme and hoping that it will lead to many other women benefiting from this procedure.”
The author of a new peer reviewed paper on Womb Transplants, published by the BJOG, is Gynaecological Surgeon and Fertility Specialist, Mr Benjamin Jones, who performed a major role in the UK operations:
“Having dedicated the last ten years of my life to this project, to be able to take part in our first womb transplant after such a rollercoaster journey, felt amazing. The frustrations of the past delays was completely offset by the incredible high from seeing what it meant to the recipient and her incredibly supportive husband and family.”
“Our goal now is to make sure we can help many more women, who previously had no hope of carrying their own child, to feel that very same joy,” he said.
The operation was carried out on a Sunday when facilities were not being used and the charity Womb Transplant UK is paying for the costs of the NHS. All the surgeons, anaesthetists and other specialists in the team donated their time free of charge.
Following over 20 years of research, the Womb Transplant UK research team have permissions to carry out live donor operations – the Charity proposes to fund up to five living donor transplants – and a research trial of 10 operations, where the patient will receive a compatible womb from a deceased donor. The team, working closely with NHS Blood and Transplant, and the Human Tissue Authority, will soon resume its state of standby in order to perform further womb transplants when suitable donors are identified.
Over 500 women have contacted the charity with a wish to take part in the programme and currently, a small number are awaiting a transplant operation.
Patient and live donor assessment, and post-operative monitoring is carried out at Queen Charlotte’s hospital in London, part of Imperial College Healthcare and the Churchill Hospital in Oxford. IVF services and embryo transfer are being carried out at the Lister Fertility Clinic in Chelsea, London.
Over 25 years of research into womb transplants, the UK team have also developed a number of interrelated fertility sparing and life-saving operations that are now performed worldwide, with thousands of women benefitting and many babies being born as a result.
The charity Womb Transplant UK raises all funds for the ongoing research. A further £300,000 plus is needed to be able to complete the team’s two approved programmes of transplant operations.
Please visit WombTransplantUk.org for more information and background and the opportunity to make a contribution towards the costs of further operations.
The UK Womb Transplant Surgical Team
A team of 8 surgeons, plus anaesthetists, theatre nurses and technicians came together to carry out the UK’s first womb transplant at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford.
Leading the surgical team were Professor Richard Smith, Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London and Honorary Consultant Transplant surgeon at Oxford Churchill Hospital and Miss Isabel Quiroga, Consultant in Transplantation Surgery at The Churchill Hospital, Oxford and Honorary Consultant in Gynaecological surgery at Hammersmith Hospital, London. Other members of the team included the following:
Mr Benjamin Jones, Gynaecological Surgeon and Fertility Specialist, Imperial College Healthcare, London
Mr Venkatesha Udupa, Consultant Transplant Surgeon, Churchill Hospital, Oxford and Honorary Consultant in Gynaecological surgery at Hammersmith Hospital, London.
Mr Srdjan Saso, Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon, Imperial College Healthcare
Dr Saaliha Vali, PhD Fellow – Gynaecologist at Imperial College Healthcare and honorary clinical fellow in transplant surgery, Oxford Churchill Hospital
Dr Ann Ogbemudia, Research fellow in transplantation surgery, University of Oxford, Registrar in transplantation surgery Oxford Churchill Hospital
Dr Cesar Diaz-Garcia Consultant Fertility Specialist, IVI London.
The team of Consultant Anaesthetists during the organ retrieval and implantation operations at The Churchill Hospital Oxford included:
Dr Peter Dimitrov Consultant Anaesthetist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Dr Andris Klucniks Consultant Anaesthetist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Dr Richard Katz, Consultant Anaesthetist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Other principal members of the team contributed their expertise to enable the first UK womb transplant operation to go ahead, were as follows:
Professor Sadaf Ghaem – Maghami Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon, Imperial College Healthcare.
Professor Peter Friend, Professor of Transplantation, Director Oxford Transplant Centre
Professor Rutger Ploeg, Professor of Transplant Biology, Oxford Transplant Centre
Mr Sanjay Sinha, Clinical Director Renal Medicine, Transplant Surgery and Urology, Oxford Transplant Centre.
Professor Jay Chatterjee, Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon, Royal Surrey County Hospital, Guildford
Mr Ahmad Sayasneh Consultant Gynaecological Surgeon St Thomas’s Hospital, London.
Dr Yau Thum, Consultant IVF specialist at The Lister Fertility Clinic in London
Dr Baljeet Kaur Consultant Histopathologist Imperial College Healthcare, London
Dr Andrea Devaney, Consultant Transplant Pharmacist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Claire Snelgrove Transplant Nurse, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Nicki Hayward-Priest, Living Donor Specialist Nurse, Churchill Hospital, Oxford
Antonio Barbosa, Perfusionist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford.
The theatre scrub and anaesthetic nursing team who took part in the living donor and transplant operations in Oxford were as follows:
Lian Lee, Joanna Nawrocka, Roman Nebres, Samantha Madzikanda, Barbara Antoniak Jakubowska, Alicja Opalczewska, Mirka Kazmierczwk, Gabriela.Chesaru, Anu Thomas, Josefina Marticio and Angela Losekann.
Supporting staff from the Churchill Hospital who took part and who were pivotal in the smooth running of the first UK womb transplant operation, were as follows:
Bryony Lennon, Yassmin Khater, Nigel Spencer, Fiaz Saddiq, Marissa Ramos, Irene Christopher, Carouselle Garcia, Jennifer Fox and Harriet Lusby.