Fertility clinic mishaps leave embryos in doubt

Problems are rare but happened in CA and OH

TUCSON, Ariz - Frozen embryos represent hope for families struggling to have a baby.

Now thousands of frozen embryos may have been damaged after problems with the frozen storage at clinics in San Francisco and Cleveland.

 'It's beyond devastating.  It's like a spiritual, emotional, physical loss..."
       
Marlo Emch hopes for another child were frozen for the future at a Cleveland fertility clinic.   Now they're in doubt.  
       
Something went wrong with the hospital's system for freezing and storing human eggs and embryos.  Her embryos were among 2000 stored there.  They may no longer be viable.
        
In San Francisco, on the same day, The Pacific Fertility Center found liquid nitrogen levels dropped too low in one of its storage tanks.  Some of the embryos there were viable but others are in doubt.
         
In Tucson, fertility specialist Doctor Timothy Gelety is surprised to hear of the problems because the storage systems are simple and very reliable.
         
Liquid nitrogen keeps the eggs and embryos at 321 degrees below zero in what amounts to very strong steel Thermos bottles.

"If the clinic burned to the ground we would sift through the ashes and pull the tanks out and they would be intact because they're very very secure.  But that being said, they have to be maintained."
      
 At his clinic, the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, a person checks nitrogen levels every day.  
      
Doctor Gelety feels that's much more reliable than electronic monitoring.
      
He says his clinic makes sure eggs or embryos from a patient are spread among different containers.

"The numbers that are being talked about in the articles are surprising.  You wouldn't want to have all your eggs to be in one tank that potentially would potentially be devastated if something were to happen."
      
To put the rarity of the Cleveland and San Francisco incidents in perspective consider Tucson alone has three in-vitro fertilization clinics. Arizona has thirteen overall.

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