May 25, 2019 | Updated: 09:32 AM EDT

First Birth After Robot-Assisted Uterine Transplant

Apr 22, 2019 10:14 PM EDT

Robot-Assisted Uterine Transplant
(Photo : University of Gothenburg)

Uterine transplantation is a relatively new (and very controversial) surgical procedure. The first ever successful operation was in Sweden 2014 and 2017 in the US. It is not often considered, especially if the main goal of the patient is to bear children given that the risks outweigh the benefits. With the advent of keyhole surgery, thru the use of robotics, this might just be the best viable solution for women wanting to experience pregnancy and carry a fetus to term. They have dubbed this, the Robot Project.

One-centimeter incisions in the abdomen and robotic arms holding the surgical instruments are guided by two surgeons, one on each side of the patient. Each surgeon sits at a personal workstation a few meters away, with a joystick-like tool and magnified 3D screen image that allows immense precision for operating deep inside the lower abdomen.  Another incision is made near the end to remove the nonfunctional uterus and the healthy one is inserted via open surgery.  The new technique makes a big difference for the donors, who generally feel better afterward and get back on their feet faster.
In a recent development, more than a year after the procedure, a baby was born, and this baby is the first to be born within the scope of this research project. He has come into the world after uterine transplantation in which the donor, the recipient's mother, was operated on with robot-assisted keyhole surgery. This method is considerably less invasive for the donor than traditional open surgery.

"It's a fantastic feeling to deliver such a special, longed-for child. To have been part of the whole process, from the first meeting with the couple to the uterus transplant, and now to see everyone's joy when what we've hoped for becomes reality. It's simply wonderful," says Pernilla Dahm-Kähler, a leading robot-assisted surgeon and gynecologist on the team and research scientist at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

"This is an extremely important step towards developing the surgery involved in uterine transplantation and its safety. For the first time, we're showing that the less invasive robot-assisted surgical technique is practicable.", states Mats Brännström, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Sahlgrenska Academy, who heads the research work.

This is the 9th baby in Sweden that is born following a uterus transplant and number one under the Robot Project.  Under the said project, the proponents of the research are expecting more babies to be delivered in the years ahead.

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