Dr. Liza Johannesson, a uterus transplant surgeon who left the Swedish team to join Baylor’s group, said the birth in Dallas was particularly important because it showed that success was not limited to the hospital in Gothenburg.
“To make the field grow and expand and have the procedure come out to more women, it has to be reproduced,” she said, adding that within hours of Baylor’s announcement, advocacy groups for women with uterine infertility from all over the world had contacted her to express their excitement at the news.
“It was a very exciting birth,” Dr. Johannesson said. “I’ve seen so many births and delivered so many babies, but this was a very special one.”
At Baylor, eight women have had transplants, including the new mother, in a clinical trial designed to include 10 patients. One recipient is pregnant, and two others — one of whom received her transplant from a deceased donor — are trying to conceive. Four other transplants failed after the surgery, and the organs had to be removed, said Dr. Giuliano Testa, principal investigator of the research project and surgical chief of abdominal transplantation.
“We had a very rough start, and then hit the right path,” Dr. Testa said in a telephone interview. “Who paid for it in a certain way were the first three women. I feel very thankful for their contribution, more so than I can express.”
Both Dr. Johannesson and Dr. Testa said that a large part of their motivation came from meeting patients and coming to understand how devastated they were to find out that they would not be able to have children.
Dr. Testa said: “I think many men will never understand this fully, to understand the desire of these women to be mothers. What moved all of us is to see the mother holding her baby, when she was told, ‘You will never have it.’”
The transplants are now experimental, with much of the cost covered by research funds. But they are expensive, and if they become part of medical practice, will probably cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is not clear that insurers will pay, and Dr. Testa acknowledged that many women who want the surgery will not be able to…