Broken fridge leaves thousands of embryos in question

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A temperature malfunction at a fertility clinic in the Cleveland area may have compromised the viability of more than 2,000 frozen eggs and embryos. In order to determine whether or not the eggs and embryos are still viable, they have to be completely thawed, but they can not be refrozen after that.

DePompei said the temperature fluctuation had occurred "due to reasons unknown" and that the hospital had launched a major investigation to find out what happened.

University Hospitals has initiated contact with all of the affected patients to respond to their questions, according to the hospital's statement.

DePompei notes the temperature spike took place sometime between Saturday afternoon, when staff left for the day, and early Sunday. About 2,000 eggs and embryos from 700 patients are stored there. "We are committed to getting answers and working with patients individually to address their concerns", says the clinic.

The facility has set up a call center for patients to arrange and appointment or calls to speak with their physicians.

"We are so very sorry this happened and we want to do all we can to support our patients and families through this very hard time".

She added: 'Right now, our patients come first.

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The typical process of storage or freezing of the eggs involves an extraction of the eggs from a woman after which it is stored in liquid nitrogen tanks in a cryogenic facility. The help-line number they have announced is a 24-hour hotline 216-286-9740.

According to University Hospitals, none of the eggs and embryos impacted by the partial thaw will be destroyed.

In comments underneath the video message, people expressed frustration and heartbreak at the potential loss of the embryos and eggs, which represented not only a significant financial and medical commitment, but the hope of expanding families. The only way to know if they are still viable is to implant them says the hospital.

This is a representational image showing a technician opening a vessel containing women's frozen egg cells in Amsterdam, April 6, 2011.

With more women deciding on a late motherhood, freezing eggs has become increasingly popular. The numbers since then have only risen.

The average cost of fertility treatment can be around $10,000 so the financial impact is expected to be significant.