"This is a very rare event": Local fertility specialist weighs in on Ohio fertility mishap
Officials say some 2,100 frozen eggs and embryos may not be viable anymore after a tank's malfunction.
Heart break and tragedy for hundreds of families after a mishap at the University Hospital's Fertility Center in Cleveland, Ohio. Officials say some 2,100 frozen eggs and embryos may not be viable anymore after a tank's malfunction.
"It was my everything, it was my future," said patient Katelyn Gurbach. " It was all of my hopes and dreams that I had for the rest of my life were based around being a mom and now that's been taken from me."
Katelyn Gurbach had tumors on her ovaries. She froze 4 embryos and 10 eggs at University Hospital's Fertility Clinic in Cleveland and she's now one of 700 patients devastated over the loss.
"This was something totally unanticipated and obviously tragic," said Dr. James Liu, UH Cleveland Medical Center.
Dr. James Liu tells NBC News, the temperature somehow increased in one of the fertility center's storage tanks filled with liquid nitrogen. University officials say they don't know why their tank failed, there was no power outage.
The hospital is now investigating, looking into mechanical and human error.
"We are so very very sorry. We again want to do all that we can to support them," said Patti De Pompei, President of UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.
The news has fertility clinics nationwide double checking their own procedures
"This is the first I've heard of a tank failure with embryos in it like this happening in 20 years," said fertility specialist Dr. Barry Donesky, with The Fertility Center. "This is a very rare event. For patients who have Cancer diagnoses and know that the treatment for that Cancer may destroy their ovaries, the ability to store their eggs is a very big and in those patients they don't have a second chance to get more eggs."
Fertility labs are largely self-regulated, accredited by industry groups and inspected on average every two years. Here in Chattanooga, both the Tennessee Reproductive Medicine Clinic and The Fertility Center keep most of their frozen material in-house. Officials tell Channel 3, their tanks are monitored 24/7.
"We top them off every week," said Dr. Donesky. " Those levels are checked during the week as well and every tank has an alarm system on it."
The alarm system informs nearby employees when a tank's temperature rises to -170 degrees. Doctors say an embryo is in danger of thawing at -130 degrees.
Alarm systems at Chattanooga Fertility Clinics are checked each week.
An investigation has also been launched at the Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, where patients were recently notified of a similar tank failure.
Officials say there's no evidence at this point that the two incidents are related.