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Robot surgery offers hope for women with fertility problems

4 April 2011
Appeared in BioNews 602

A New York fertility specialist has 'partially successfully' implanted a British woman's own ovarian tissue back into her body after treatment for breast cancer.

In an attempt to restore her fertility, Emma Leach, from London, underwent robotic surgery in the USA using tiny pieces of her ovaries that had been frozen five years previously, prior to receiving chemotherapy which rendered her infertile.

'Using [the robot] for an ovarian transplant had never been done before', said Professor Kutluk Oktay, director of the Institute for Fertility Preservation and professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at New York Medical College.

'The robotic arm mimics the movement of the hand but there is much more precision... There is no hand tremor. This allows the surgeon to do fine suturing at microscopic levels without having to put patients through invasive surgery', he added.

Leach's frozen tissue was flown to the USA from Britain, thawed, and stitched into one of her non-functioning ovaries via a keyhole incision. Technically, the operation was a success as some egg follicle growth and hormonal function were detected in the ovaries following the operation, indicating fertility. However, this was short-lived, most likely due to the small amount of tissue which was transplanted.

Professor Oktay, who will present his research at the Transatlantic Reproductive Technologies Network meeting this month, called the procedure 'a partial success'. Leach has commented that she wishes a whole ovary had been frozen before her cancer treatment, instead of just pieces.

It is hoped that the operation will give hope to women who are left infertile after cancer therapy, and Leach has set up a website providing information to women who may be about to undergo treatment that threatens their fertility.

Institute for Fertility Preservation
at Centre for Reproductive Medicine |  04/11
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