Oklahoma U 1st in state to offer new fertility, tissue freezing procedure

Oklahoma University Health, located in Norman, is the first in the state to offer a tissue freezing procedure to promote fertility, the system announced Jan. 4.

The procedure, ovarian tissue freezing, is a unique option for patients who may want to begin fertility treatments, but are then unexpectedly diagnosed with an aggressive disease such as cancer. In a situation like this, traditional methods like in vitro fertilization can take weeks. Ovarian tissue freezing offers a faster solution in which a patient must begin a treatment like chemotherapy. Since aggressive therapies can negatively affect fertility, the ovarian tissue freezing process must be done right away, according to a press release. 

It can also be a solution for young girls who receive a cancer diagnosis, but have yet to undergo puberty. OU Health first performed the new procedure on a 6-year-old girl in 2023 who had received a cancer diagnosis, according to the release.

The procedure is minimally invasive and requires the removal of one ovary to freeze, while leaving the other ovary in the body. But freezing the ovary requires it to be flown to the University of Pittsburgh where experts then slice it into strips, add a special solution and then freeze the tissue in liquid nitrogen, the release explains. At a later date, the patient can choose to have the tissues unfrozen and re-implanted. 

"This expertise is not yet widely available, and the University of Pittsburgh is a foremost expert in ovary tissue freezing," Heather Burks, MD, a reproductive medicine physician with OU, stated in the news release. "We have an agreement with them to process and store the tissue. It's nice to have this option for patients who aren't candidates for egg or embryo freezing."

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