Eggs stored at a fertility clinic in danger due to a malfunction

There has been a recent incident at a fertility clinic - University Hospitals Fertility Center, Cleveland, where the eggs and embryos are stored. Due to the temperature fluctuation at the facility, the viability of the stored eggs and embryos may be in danger. University Hospitals officials have been looking into the issue.

At the tissue storage bank, these eggs and embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen according to a hospital spokesperson’s statement yesterday (8th of March 2018). There has been a temperature fluctuation that may have damaged the stored eggs they said. The incident could have affected over 2100 frozen eggs and embryos say the sources. This could be heart-breaking for around 500 to 600 families, say the officials.

The officials said that one of the long-term storage tank that contained liquid nitrogen had an equipment failure that caused the temperatures to rise temporarily. Once thawed the eggs and embryos may not be viable if re-frozen, say experts. Some of these eggs and embryos have been stored in there for decades. According to Patti DePompei, president, UH MacDonald Women's Hospital and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, these eggs may no longer be viable for use. She explained that the reasons were being explored but all they could say now was that the temperatures at one part of the storage tank was higher than their acceptable limits.

The typical process of storage or freezing of the eggs involves an extraction of the eggs from a woman after which it is stored in liquid nitrogen tanks in a cryogenic facility. These eggs are watched over using a video surveillance and an alarm system. DePompei said that this incident has been devastating for families involved and also for the physicians and nursing staff involved as well.

The UH is bringing in experts to look into the matter. They said in a statement, “Right now, our patients come first. We are incredibly sorry this happened. We are committed to getting answers and working with patients individually to address their concerns. We have already initiated contact with all of our patients to inform them and respond to their questions, and set up a designated call center to arrange personal meetings or calls with their physicians.” The help-line number they have announced is a 24-hour hotline 216-286-9740.

As of now these eggs and embryos have been moved to a working tank. The only way to know if they are still viable is to implant them says the hospital. These are still preserved and would not be destroyed, the hospital said in a statement.

With more women deciding on a late motherhood, freezing eggs has become increasingly popular. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ARSM), as many as 6200 women froze their eggs in 2015. The numbers since then have only risen. The costs of freezing eggs is somewhere around $12,000 to $14,000. Sean Tipton, chief policy officer at ASRM expressed his sympathy for the affected families and said the organization would look into the matter ensuring this is not repeated.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.


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