New York doctors complete first successful trachea transplant

Sonia Sein, a 56-year-old woman from New York is the recipient of the world’s first complete surgical windpipe transplant. The procedure was performed by Dr. Eric Genden, a surgeon at Mount Sinai and researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine, who has been researching trachea repair and treatment for years. 

What makes the trachea so difficult to transplant is its delicate blood supply structure. Dr. Genden realized that some of the arteries that pass through the thyroid gland and others that connect to the esophagus also supply blood to the trachea. With this information, Dr. Genden felt ready to try the procedure and Sein, who had been actively seeking out a medical solution to her damaged windpipe, was the perfect candidate. 

Sein suffered a severe asthma attack six years ago, and the intubation tube that was inserted to help her breathe permanently damaged her trachea. She had been living with a tracheostomy tube but wanted a more permanent solution for an improved quality of life. After the 18-hour surgery, Sein is recovering well with her new organ. Doctors report that her own cells are now growing inside it, a promising sign for long-term transplant success. 

Although the surgery seems to be a success, Garden thinks the field has a long way to go before tracheal transplants become common. With more advancement, these procedures will hopefully become a valuable resource for individuals with damaged windpipes or those born with defects. For now, Sein says the first thing she is going to do with her new trachea is take a walk on the beach and feel the sand between her toes. 

Image source: NPR

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