San Francisco, Cleveland fertility clinics experience rare malfunction on same day

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco fertility clinic experienced a rare malfunction that could potentially affect patients' eggs and embryos on the same day that a clinic in Cleveland suffered a similar problem, ABC News reports.

The Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco contacted patients about a liquid nitrogen failure in a storage tank.

Dr. Carl Herbert, the president and medical director at the clinic, said lab employees noticed last weekend that liquid nitrogen was low in one of their storage tanks. The lab then immediately took steps to transfer the eggs and embryos into another tank but at that point, the damage may have already been done.

Officials say approximately 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos may have been damaged due to a storage tank malfunction at the Ohio hospital fertility clinic.

The Plain Dealer reports Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital and MacDonald Women's Hospital, calls the situation "absolutely devastating." She says temperatures in one of the two liquid nitrogen tanks storing specimens at University Hospitals' fertility clinic in suburban Cleveland rose above acceptable limits overnight Saturday for unknown reasons.

Hospital officials say about 700 patients are affected. Some samples date to the 1980s. The hospital began notifying patients Tuesday.

All of the samples have been moved to another storage tank.

Patients typically pay about $12,000 without insurance for in vitro fertilization. It's not clear how the affected patients will be compensated.

The hospital is still investigating the cause of the problem, which was discovered March 4, the same day the San Francisco clinic suffered the similar failure.

Herbert told ABC News that in his 35 years of Cryopreservation it is an "an unusual event" where two clinics and two liquid nitrogen storage tanks where the tissues are stored "failed."

In the wake of the San Francisco incident, Herbert said the clinic has begun a conscientious letter-writing campaign to about 500 of the clinic's patients "that may have been involved in this tank."

If you were possibly affected by the malfunction and would like to arrange for a call with your doctor, please call 855-215-5874. The phone line will be open seven days a week from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. PT.
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