The first tracheal transplant in the United States

Sonia Sein, 56, is now able to breathe easily after the first tracheal transplant in history, at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.

During the 18-hour surgery in January, a team of 50 specialists transplanted the new trachea into the patient’s intricate network of blood vessels. “When the patient’s new trachea started working, we knew we had overcome the first obstacle,” said Dr. Genden, the head of the operating team, on April 6.

Nearly three months after the transplant, the patient had no complications or signs of rejection. Ms. Sein still has to take anti-rejection drugs. The doctor hopes to help her reduce her drug dependence in the next few years.

According to Dr. David Klassen, medical director of the Organ Sharing Network (UNOS), an agency that monitors organ transplant operations in the United States, the technique of tracheal transplantation is extremely difficult. Experts say that it is too early to confirm the complete success of the surgery. UNOS claims this is the first tracheal transplant in the United States.

However, Alec Patterson, an organ transplant surgeon at the University of Washington in St. Petersburg Louis, said: “If the transplant fails, we have already seen consequences. But everything is still smooth, proving the results are very promising. It is a big step forward.

Doctors say this organ transplant can help many others, including someone with a congenital tracheal malformation or a Covid-19 patient with severe tracheal damage caused by using a ventilator.

In 2014, Sein had severe asthma and had to be intubated, causing serious damage to her windpipe. She underwent a number of tracheostomy re-surgery but to no avail and always faced the risk of suffocation. After a tracheotomy in January, she is now breathing normally.

The surgery gave the patient the chance to experience things she could not have done before. “I feel good. I can dance, play chase around the house with my kids. We watch movies, cook and make good memories,” Sein said.

Over the years, many methods have been used to improve or regenerate the trachea. Doctors can remove damaged parts, replace them with prostheses, laboratory culture tissue, or tissue from the patient’s skin and rib cartilage. However, these techniques cannot fully restore the trachea function.

This organ is not simply a pipeline. It has tiny hairs that help the surrounding mucus move and is flexible to open and contract when people breathe, swallow, or cough. In severe cases, completely damaged trachea, organ transplant is the last resort.

Sonia Sein talks with Dr. Eric Genden, the head of the tracheal transplant surgery team. Image: AP

Mai Dung (According to the AP)


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