Fertility clinic disaster may have destroyed thousands of frozen eggs, embryos

More than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may not be viable after freezer fails

A malfunction over the weekend at a Cleveland fertility clinic may have destroyed more than 2,000 stored eggs and embryos, affecting hundreds of families.

The failure caused the temperature to rise, ultimately making the eggs and embryos at the facility lose their viability. University Hospitals officials have been looking into the issue. They have been moved to another cryo tank at the correct temperature.

The fertility clinic reached out to roughly 700 patients to inform them that their frozen eggs and embryos may have been compromised. This could be heart-breaking for around 500 to 600 families, say the officials.

We are investigating a recent incident at our Fertility Clinic involving an unexpected temperature fluctuation with the tissue storage bank where eggs and embryos are stored in liquid nitrogen.

The only way to check if an egg or embryo is viable is to thaw it, which is only done when it is to be used imminently. Some of these eggs and embryos have been stored in there for decades.

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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.

In a statement on Thursday, University Hospitals said that it doesn't know yet what caused the temperature to rise, but it's conducting an investigation into the matter.

Between the overnight hours Saturday to Sunday, one of the egg and embryo liquid nitrogen storage tanks began warming up. The cryogenic facilities where the eggs are stored are typically monitored with video surveillance and alarm systems.

'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, ' added DePompei. They said in a statement, "Right now, our patients come first. We've actually engaged an outside expert to analyze and drill down to see what actually happened", said Dr. James Liu, Chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UH MacDonald Women's Hospital. "And we want to do all that we can to support our patients and families through this hard time", said the clinic.

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