The first successful uterus transplant in the United States failed after the patient developed a yeast infection. Lindsey McFarland, the 26-year-old patient who received the uterus at the Cleveland Clinic, had hoped to undergo IVF to become pregnant once she recovered from the transplant.
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic announced on March 9 that the procedure had failed and the uterus had to be removed, but didn’t provide further details. In a written statement Friday, the New York Times reports, they revealed that the yeast infection compromised blood flow to the uterus:
In a written statement, the clinic said, “Preliminary results suggest that the complication was because of an infection caused by an organism that is commonly found in a woman’s reproductive system. The infection appears to have compromised the blood supply to the uterus, causing the need for its removal.”
The infection was caused by a fungus, a type of yeast called Candida albicans, two of the doctors who performed the surgery said in an interview. It is normally found in the vagina, living in balance with bacteria and other microbes. But illness or some medications can disrupt the balance, allowing overgrowth of the yeasts, and at that point they can cause problems.
McFarland was born without a uterus; she has three adopted children, but said in previous interview that she’d always hoped to be able to experience pregnancy and childbirth. She recovered well for nearly two weeks following the transplant before she began bleeding heavily and had to be rushed into surgery, the hospital said.
McFarland received donor vaginal tissue from the same donor as the uterus; her doctors told the Times the yeast infection could have originated from the donor or from her. Ordinarily, yeast infections are simple to treat, but the drugs donor recipients have to take to prevent rejection also prevent the patient’s immune system from fighting the infection.
The Cleveland Clinic said in a statement that they’re reviewing the case to try to prevent similar rejections: “There is an ongoing review of all the data and the team is modifying the protocol to reduce the chances of this complication occurring again in the future. The health of our patient is and has always been our primary concern.”
Photo via Cleveland Clinic