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10 March 2018, 12:43 | Darrell Baldwin
Malfunction At Freezing Facility Could Have Damaged Thousands Of Frozen Eggs, Embryos
A malfunction at a fertility clinic freezer in Cleveland, Ohio, may have affected at least 500 patients and damaged over 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos.
The dilemma for those involved is that their eggs and embryos have to be completely thawed to determine whether they are still viable, but if thawed, they can not be refrozen.
Embryologists who arrived at the center on Sunday morning were alerted by an alarm that the temperature of the tank had increased, administrators told the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
The temperature of the tissue storage bank, where eggs and embryos are housed in liquid nitrogen, unexpectedly fluctuated, the hospital system said on Thursday. Some specimens that were already thawed since Sunday for planned procedures were found not to be viable, the Plain Dealer reported.
"At this point, we do not know the viability of all of the stored eggs and embryos, although we do know some have been impacted", said Patti DePompei, the president of University Hospital Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, in a Facebook video announcing the news. They do not know yet if it was a mechanical malfunction or human error. The tanks are attached with alarms, which will go off if the temperature drops below a certain level.
DePompei said in her statement on Facebook that the hospital will go through a "deep investigation", including bringing in experts, "to ensure that this does not happen again".
On Friday, the fertility center had informed about 700 patients that their eggs and embryos may have been destroyed. Some of these eggs and embryos have been stored in there for decades. "Obviously the situation that occurred here is devastating for the families involved, and it's devastating for. our staff", DePompei tells NBC News. Per a University Hospitals statement cited by News 5 Cleveland, the facility has "initiated contact with all of our patients", and a call center has been set up so patients can set up meetings with doctors.
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