9 Most Interesting and Successful Transplants in Medical History

The first successful human organ transplant was a corneal transplant performed in 1905. Since then, many types of transplants were performed, changing the lives of the patients.

Here’s a look at nine of the most interesting transplants ever done.

1. First successful womb transplant

Derya Sert, a 21-year-old woman, was born without a uterus. On Aug. 9, 2011, doctors at the Akdeniz University Hospital in Turkey transplanted the womb of a deceased woman to Sert.

Post the transplant; doctors reported that Sert had been normally menstruating. However, she is on immunosuppressants to prevent organ rejection.

“The surgery was a success … But we will be successful when she has her baby,” micro-surgeon Dr. Omer Ozkan, who was part of the surgical team, said in a statement.

Doctors need to implant an embryo into Sert’s new womb for her to have a baby. Scientists have previously shown that animals, such as dogs and sheep, can become pregnant after being transplanted with a new uterus, but such a feat in humans remains to be seen.

2. Ovary transplants

Susanne Butscher’s had gone through early menopause at age 15 as her ovaries stopped producing hormones and eggs. In 2007, doctors at the Infertility Centre of St. Louis, Mo. took the right ovary of her twin sister Dorothee Tilly and transplanted it into her.

Butscher was the world’s first person to receive whole ovary transplant. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl a year after the transplant.

In another case in 2007, a woman gave birth after being transplanted with her ovarian tissue. Stinne Holm Bergholdt, had ovarian tissue removed and frozen before receiving cancer treatment.

Danish doctor Claus Yding Andersen replaced the strips of ovarian tissue after Bergholdt was cured of cancer. Bergholdt later had two children a year apart, the first with the aid of fertility treatments, and the second without.

“It is an amazing fact that these ovarian strips have been working for so long, and it provides information on how powerful this technique can be,” Andersen said.

3. Penis transplant

A first and only successful penis transplant was performed by the surgeons from China in 2006. A 44-year-old man lost his penis in an accident which left him with a stump less than half an inch long. He was not able to urinate standing or have sex. Doctors transplanted the organ from a 22-year-old brain-dead man, whose parents donated his penis.

After 10 days, he was able to urinate normally, but his new penis had a swollen shape. The man and his wife couldn’t psychologically handle the change and ultimately decided to get the organ removed. So the doctors removed the organ 15 days after the surgery, the medical team reported in the journal European Urology.

4. Six-organ transplant

A 5-year old Alannah Shevenell, of Maine, suffered a massive abdominal tumor, where finger-like tendrils were stretching from organ to organ. According to the doctors, the only way to save her was to remove the tumor and all affected organs at once.

After finding a suitable donor, doctors went through with the surgery. They removed the tumor and gave Shevenell a new stomach, liver, spleen, small intestine, pancreas, and part of an esophagus. It was believed to be the first-ever esophageal transplant, and many organ transplants in a child at one time.

5. Double-limb transplants

Clint Hallam from New Zealand has lost his hand in a saw accident. He later became the first recipient of a transplanted hand in 1999. The success of his procedure opened the door for other limb transplants, including double limb transplants.

A 65-year-old Richard Mangino, who was a quadruple amputee, received two hands in a double transplant procedure.

In addition to hands, surgeons have transplanted full arms and legs and performed procedures where two limbs were transplanted at once.

According to the BBC reports last year, a patient in Spain underwent a double leg transplant; in 2008, a farmer in Germany received two new arms.

However, double transplants seem to currently be the limit as sometimes they had to be removed because of tissue incompatibility.

6. Toe-to-thumb transplant

Harry Buncke, Father of Microsurgery, performed the first big-toe-to-thumb transplant on a rhesus monkey in 1964. Building on Buncke’s work, John R. Cobbett performed the first such human transplant. Since then, doctors have performed many similar transplants around the world.

The procedure involves reattaching nerves, bone, tendons, arteries, ligaments, and skin of the big toe to the hand.

Read more: Fully synthetic organ transplant

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