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Freezer malfunction leaves more than 2000 frozen eggs and embryos at risk

10 March 2018

The failure resulted in the temperature in the tank becoming warmer than it should be, which means numerous eggs and embryos in the tank may no longer be viable, according to Patti DePompei, president, UH MacDonald Women's Hospital and UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital. Some specimens that were already thawed since Sunday for planned procedures were found not to be viable, the Plain Dealer reported. They do not know yet if it was a mechanical malfunction or human error.

University Hospitals Fertility Center's storage bank at Ahuja Medical Center in Beachwood was compromised last weekend when it "experienced unexpected temperature fluctuations" in the liquid nitrogen storage bank that holds stored eggs and embryos, said Patti DePompei, president of UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and UH MacDonald Women's Hospital.

The organization said it has launched an investigation into the cause of the malfunction, bringing in independent experts. Most of the samples are used by patients undergoing in vitro fertilization.

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"It's devastating", DePompei told WKYC.

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

DePompei notes the temperature spike took place sometime between Saturday afternoon, when staff left for the day, and early Sunday.

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Some of the samples date to the 1980s, said Dr. James Liu, head of the hospital's obstetrics and gynecology department.

Right now, hospital officials do not know how numerous eggs and embryos are viable, only that a number have been impacted. These are still preserved and would not be destroyed, the hospital said in a statement.

The eggs and embryos have been moved to a different cryotank in the meantime, but their viability remains questionable.

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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. "Obviously the situation that occurred here is devastating for the families involved, and it's devastating for. our staff", DePompei tells NBC News. 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.

Freezer malfunction leaves more than 2000 frozen eggs and embryos at risk