University Hospitals increases security at fertility clinic after embryo freezer malfunctions

Phillip Cunningham
March 10, 2018

After the incident, the eggs and embryos were moved to new liquid nitrogen tanks, and they are set at the correct temperature. And for some families, the treatment is their only chance at conceiving a child.

In order to see if the egg or embryo is still viable, it has to be thawed out and implanted. Some specimens that were already thawed since Sunday for planned procedures were found not to be viable, the Plain Dealer reported.

The hospital said it's conferring with experts about why the storage tank malfunctioned.

Patti DePompei, president of UH MacDonald Women's Hospital and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, told NBC News this malfunction may have caused damage to numerous eggs and embryos - some of which have been stored for decades.

No one was at the facility overnight on Saturday, and the storage tank was monitored both on and off-site. When embryologists arrived at the center Sunday morning, an alarm alerted them to a temperature change in the tank, administrators told the Plain Dealer.

"It's devastating", Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center in Cleveland told the local station WKYC.

Between 2009 and 2015, the number of women freezing their eggs has jumped from 475 and to more than 6,200 according to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology which represents most fertility clinics in the U.S., USA Today reported.

Each vile contained two to three eggs or embryos from each patient.

Some of the eggs and embryos had been stored for decades. These are still preserved and would not be destroyed, the hospital said in a statement.

The hospital is reaching out to each patient individually, both through letter and phone call.

It is unknown at this time how much it will cost to fix this, with University Hospitals saying it could mean procedure fees would be waived for future treatment, according to WEWS.

"We are investigating a recent incident at our fertility clinic involving an unexpected temperature fluctuation in the storage bank", University Hospitals said in a statement released on Facebook with a video from DePompei.

"Our hearts go out to the patients who have endured this misfortune", said Sean Tipton, boss strategy officer at ASRM.

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