A major malfunction that caused equipment failure at an egg freezing facility in Cleveland may have left over 2,000 eggs and embryos not viable, negatively affecting from 500 to 600 families.
The University Hospitals Fertility Center in Cleveland experienced a sudden failure after a long-term storage tank containing liquid nitrogen suddenly became warmer than it should, NBC News reports. Because of this, thousands of the eggs and embryos in storage, may no longer be useful, according to Patti DePompei, president of the UH MacDonald Women’s Hospital and UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital. Some of the eggs and embryos have been in the facility for decades.
We don’t know the reasons why yet. But we do know that the temperature that was measured at a portion of the tank was higher than our acceptable limits.
After a woman completes the egg freezing process, the frozen eggs are kept in liquid nitrogen tanks in the center’s cryogenic facility, where they are generally under constant surveillance, including alarm systems. DePompei said that there is an alarm system in place, but refused to go into specifics pending an investigation into the matter.
“Obviously the situation that occurred here is devastating for the families involved, and it’s devastating for our physicians and our nurses and our staff as well,” DePompei said.
University Hospitals has been contacting its patients to decide on how best to proceed. The only way to tell for certain if an egg or embryo is still viable is to thaw it and implant it in a womb. The hospital confirmed that it will not destroy any of the stored eggs and embryos, and had moved them to a fully functioning tank.
DePompei said, “We are working very very carefully to determine how we can best support them through the process.”
Egg freezing has gained popularity in the United States as a method for young women to preserve their fertility. In 2015 alone, over 6,200 women froze their eggs, according to data from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.