Thousands of eggs, embryos possibly damaged at OH hospital

Centers refrigerator malfunctioned a temperature fluctuation that affected hundreds of eggs and embryos

A California fertility clinic said a nitrogen failure may have damaged frozen eggs and embryos, while clients filed a lawsuit in Cleveland for a similar malfunction.

Hundreds of patients whose eggs or embryos were stored in the tank for future use have been notified, said a spokesman for the Pacific Fertility Clinic. Embryos - fertilized eggs - are stored individually.

The spokesman, Tom Becker, confirmed a Washington Post report of the March 4 incident.

The incident was the second liquid nitrogen failure at a fertility center reported in the same week. The clinic in San Francisco said it will write to the 500 patients that may have been involved in the tank incident. Others, whose specimens were unaffected, were also notified. The failure was discovered by the clinic's lab director, who noticed the level of liquid nitrogen in one of its steel storage tanks was too low, which resulted in a temperature increase. Herbert could not be reached by The Chronicle for comment.

The Pacific Fertility Center said a piece of equipment in its cyro-storage laboratory "lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time" on March 4.

"This was a awful incident", Pacific Fertility Center President Carl Herbert, MD, told The Post.

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In its statement, Pacific Fertility said an independent investigation is in progress and apologized for the incident. "So my hopes are that for my patients, they'll be OK".

In a statement to media, hospital officials said "we are incredibly sorry this happened". Herbert told the Post some of the eggs in the tank had been tested, and were undamaged.

While the extent of the damage in both scenarios is unclear, the potential damage to eggs in both incidents would be a financial and emotional blow to the fertility patients, including women storing embryos, women donating their eggs and women seeking to delay a pregnancy.

The pair of incidents, with powerful emotional and financial consequences, come as the number of USA women freezing their eggs has soared in recent years as assisted reproductive technology has advanced and become increasingly popular.

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.

According to WEWS, Amber Ash says she and her husband were notified of the freezer malfunction on Friday and told their embryos are no longer viable. "There are a lot of questions we need to find out answers to so we can prevent these occurrences from happening again". With two occurring nearly simultaneously, he said, further investigation is necessary.

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