Cleveland fertility clinic's 2018 loss of thousands of eggs, embryos spurs new protocols locally, nationwide

A 2018 incident at one of Cleveland-based University Hospitals' fertility clinics that left thousands of eggs and embryos nonviable has led to improvements in the the fertility industry locally and nationally, according to Cleveland.com.

Seventy lawsuits were initially filed against University Hospitals. On Jan. 24, eight more lawsuits were filed targeting the hospitals and DataLoggers, the company that was supposed to monitor the alarms on the embryo storage tanks.

After the incident, the hospital said it purchased four new liquid nitrogen tanks for egg and embryo storage and implemented new procedures for preventive maintenance of the fertility freezers. Additionally, the facility's liquid nitrogen storage tanks now have a remote alarm that alerts up to five people, hospital officials said.

National oversight organizations have updated regulations for fertility clinics since the incident, including the College of American Pathologists and the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology.

The College of American Pathologists offers voluntary accreditation programs for embryology labs. The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology publishes guidelines for its members, submits lab data to the CDC and ensures member labs adhere to ethics and practice guidelines and accreditation standards.

William West, MD, a pathologist who serves as an adviser to the College of American Pathologists' checklist committee, said several changes have been made to the reproductive lab checklist in direct response to the Cleveland incident and at a lab in San Francisco that had a storage tank malfunction around the same time.

The checklist changes include new rules on maintaining adequate temperatures and levels of liquid nitrogen in storage tanks, keeping backup liquid nitrogen on site and ensuring a written procedure exists for responding to alarm systems.

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