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Second fertility clinic suffers malfunction on same day as University Hospitals

Posted at 9:41 PM, Mar 11, 2018
and last updated 2019-03-28 16:07:02-04

In a shocking twist, the fridge malfunction at University Hospitals was one of two that occurred on the same day.

Now, cross country conversations are taking place between Cleveland and San Francisco to see if there are any connections.

Right now, UH is not revealing how the malfunction at its fertility clinic occurred.

Meantime, doctors in California are keeping close watch on developments in their investigation.

"The group that we work with that's investigating this, is in direct contact with Cleveland to look for any kind of comparisons or anything we can learn,” said Dr. Carl Herbert.

Herbert is the president and medical director at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco.

Staff at his facility was stunned after learning a pair of nitrogen storage tanks failed, leaving eggs and embryos vulnerable.

"It would be incredibly unusual for this to happen within the span of a week," said Herbert.

In the California case, up to 500 patients may be affected.

But Herbert told ABC News there's some good news to emerge.

"We have viable embryos," said Herbert.

While UH has not revealed what it’s now doing to prevent a similar problem in the future, we are getting an idea what might be occurring behind the scenes, based on the fertility clinic in California.

“People are planning their families based off this technology, so we've actually ordered a third alarm system for every tank, that's separate from the tank, so it's going to be an independent alarm system we hope will help us. We've also looked at all our SOPs, we've looked at all the things that  we can possibly do, and if we can improve, that's what we're going to do," said Herbert.

Herbert said that in his 35 years of cryopreservation it is an unusual event to have two clinics and two liquid nitrogen storage tanks fail.

The following statement is from Pacific Fertility Center:

On March 4, a single piece of equipment in our cryo-storage laboratory lost liquid nitrogen for a brief period of time. We do know that there is viable tissue from that tank. The rest of the tanks were not affected. The equipment was immediately retired, the vast majority of the eggs and embryos in the lab were unaffected, and the facility is operating securely. As soon as the issue was discovered, our most senior embryologists took immediate action to transfer those tissues from the affected equipment to a new piece of equipment. We have brought in independent experts and are conducting a full investigation. Our patients and the safety of their eggs and embryos are our highest priorities and we are reaching out to inform them of this incident. In addition, we have completed a physical inspection of all of the lab equipment and have also thoroughly reviewed all cryo-preservation protocols with staff. We are truly sorry this happened and for the anxiety that this will surely cause.

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