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How Surgeons Performed the First Successful Human Trachea Transplant

Trachea Surgery

Why can’t a tracheal transplant occur? Renowned otolaryngologist Eric M. Genden, MD, MHCA, FACS, had pondered that question since his days as a medical student.

For the past 30 years, Dr. Genden has searched for the answer—scouring the literature, rejecting scientific dogma, and gathering his own evidence about what goes wrong when surgeons try to replace and rebuild this notoriously tricky organ.

Without transplantation, patients with long-segment tracheal disease have either died or been forced to breathe through a hole in their neck. That changed on Wednesday, January 13, 2021, when a team of surgeons led by Dr. Genden conducted the first successful human tracheal transplant surgery. More than 50 specialists were involved in the historic operation, in which the team spent 18 hours harvesting trachea from a donor and then implanting it into the patient.

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