University Hospitals notifies 700 fertility patients about potential damage to eggs, embryos: 7 things to know

Cleveland-based University Hospitals notified about 700 fertility patients that the frozen eggs and embryos stored at one of its fertility centers may no longer be viable after the temperatures in a storage bank rose over the weekend, according to The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Here are seven things to know.

1. A liquid nitrogen freezer at the UH Fertility Center, which is housed in the Beachwood, Ohio-based University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, unexpectedly rose sometime between the afternoon of March 3 and the morning of March 4. While the storage tank had an audible alarm sounding that would have alerted workers to a temperature change, no staff members were in the facility overnight. 

2. The storage freezer held more than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos. Some of the patients had more than one sample stored, and some samples had been stored since the 1980s.

3. While the extent of the loss is still unclear, James Liu, MD, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UH Cleveland Medical Center, told The Plain Dealer that there is evidence of damage to some eggs.

4. It is unclear why the temperature rose in the tank, since it did not lose power. UH has launched an investigation to determine if the problem was caused by a human error or mechanical failure.

5. The potential damage to eggs would be a financial and emotional blow to the fertility patients, including women storing embryos, women donating their eggs and women seeking to delay a pregnancy, according to The Washington Post. The process of removing and freezing a woman's eggs can cost more than $10,000, plus yearly storage fees, according to The Washington Post.

6. "We are so very sorry this happened and we want to do all that we can to support our patients and families through this very difficult time," Patti DePompei, MSN, RN, president of Cleveland-based UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital and Cleveland-based UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, said in a video posted on Facebook.

7. UH officials sent letters to all the affected patients March 6, after verifying addresses.

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