World’s first bladder transplant will be performed by both human and robot surgeons

For the first time in human history, doctors will transplant a human bladder from a deceased person to an alive patient using surgery robots.
Rupendra Brahambhatt
Human urinary system with bladder anatomy
Human urinary system with bladder anatomy

Georgiy Datsenko/iStock 

A team of urologists at Keck Medicine of the University of South California (USC) is conducting a clinical trial that will soon lead to the first-ever bladder transplant operation in humans. The doctors are currently in the process of selecting participants for their trials.  

If successful, such operations would provide relief to millions of people around the globe who live with bladder-related disorders. Inderbir Gill, principal investigator and executive director at Keck Medicine USC Urology, said, “We could be on the verge of a medical advance that has the potential to revolutionize how we treat terminally compromised bladders.”

What’s more exciting is that the bladder transplant will be carried out using minimally invasive surgery robots

Why does human bladder transplant matter?

When a patient’s bladder is no longer functioning well, their standard treatment is called orthotopic neobladder reconstruction. In this process, the existing bladder is surgically removed, and in its place, doctors recreate a new bladder using some parts of the patient’s intestine. 

They reshape selected small or large intestines tissues to construct a new healthy spherical bladder. Unfortunately, this treatment doesn’t work for all patients and could lead to side effects ranging from blood clots to urinary incontinence and cancer. Therefore, a safer treatment method is needed.

Until now, doctors didn’t perform a bladder transplant instead of bladder reconstruction because the pelvic area in humans where the organ is located has a complex vascular framework, and tampering with this could lead to severe repercussions. 

Moreover, scientists haven’t been able to develop a method to transplant a bladder without risking a patient’s normal urinary tract functions. According to the USC team, their transplant method offers patients a better and safer bladder treatment option for the first time. 

Dr. Nima Nassiri, one of the urologists involved in the trial, said, “The intention of this clinical trial is to develop a new treatment option for a certain subset of patients with debilitating bladder conditions that can severely hamper the quality of life and ultimately, even shorten life.” 

During the trials, surgery robots will be employed to transplant a healthy bladder received from a deceased donor into a patient’s body. The urologists will monitor and direct the robots via a 3D camera.

They believe the robotic surgery method will allow them to do the transplant with greater precision and in the least invasive way possible. 

They claim to have already performed the first successful robotic bladder retrieval surgery on a deceased human subject during the practice stages of the current trials. Hopefully, the trials will continue as expected by the USC team and pave the path for better, safer, and less complicated bladder treatment procedures.

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