More than 4,000 eggs and embryos lost in Cleveland fertility clinic tank failure

An Ohio fertility clinic says more than 4,000 eggs and embryos were affected by a freezer malfunction, double the num...

Posted: Mar 28, 2018 1:11 PM
Updated: Mar 28, 2018 1:11 PM

An Ohio fertility clinic says more than 4,000 eggs and embryos were affected by a freezer malfunction, double the number previously thought -- and that it's unlikely any of them are viable.

The University Hospitals Fertility Clinic also said about 950 families were affected by the storage tank failure earlier this month. At the time, the facility in Cleveland said it believed about 700 families were affected.

In a letter sent to the families, dated Monday and obtained by CNN on Tuesday, University Hospitals said it was sharing the updated information with a "heavy heart."

"The technical manner in which the eggs and embryos are stored in these freezers complicated our initial determination of how many patients and specimens were affected," the letter stated.

At the time of the failure, the clinic said it was unable to determine right away whether any of the eggs and embryos were still viable. In the letter this week, it said, "We are heartbroken to tell you that it's unlikely any are viable."

The freezer failure

The malfunction occurred when temperatures unexpectedly fluctuated in the liquid nitrogen storage tank where the eggs and embryos were stored, University Hospitals said.

An investigation revealed that the remote alarm system on the tank, designed to alert an employee to changes such as temperature swings, was off.

"We don't know when the remote alarm was turned off, but it remained off through that weekend, so an alert wasn't sent to our employee as the tank temperature began to rise on Saturday night, when the lab isn't staffed," the letter said.

"An alarm should have been sent and received," it continued. "We don't know who turned off the remote alarm nor do we know how long it was off, but it appears to have been off for a period of time. We are still seeking those answers."

The tank in question had been experiencing "difficulty" for several weeks before the failure, the facility said in its letter this week. There were problems with the automatic filling of liquid nitrogen into the tank, so employees were having to fill the tank manually.

The facility said that, at the time of the failure, it was working with the tank manufacturer on how to correct the problem. In the meantime, it had begun the several-week process of transferring all specimens to another storage tank -- though when the failure happened, no specimens had yet been moved.

When it last checked the nitrogen levels before the failure, they "appeared to be appropriate," the facility said, "but we now suspect that may not have been the case."

"We do not yet know if this fill process may explain the rise in temperature over the weekend," the letter said. "This investigation continues."

The facility's response

University Hospitals said it takes responsibility for the failures and "we are so sorry that our failures caused such a devastating loss for you."

It said is has offered its affected patients tailored medical services. It also promised to refund paid storage fees and waive storage fees for the next seven years.

New storage tanks and new alarm systems are now in place, it added.

"We know that words are not enough," the letter concluded. "Our actions must now speak for us. We hope our actions will restore your trust in us."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 728811

Reported Deaths: 13405
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion996911740
Lake53548966
Allen40529675
St. Joseph35596550
Hamilton35536408
Elkhart28470441
Tippecanoe22375218
Vanderburgh22293396
Porter18701307
Johnson17923378
Hendricks17199315
Clark12943191
Madison12612339
Vigo12437246
Monroe11873170
LaPorte11856210
Delaware10667186
Howard9895216
Kosciusko9390117
Hancock8260140
Bartholomew8058155
Warrick7777155
Floyd7653178
Wayne7035199
Grant7032174
Boone6687101
Morgan6557139
Dubois6150117
Marshall6016111
Dearborn580077
Cass5794105
Henry5699103
Noble559883
Jackson501172
Shelby490696
Lawrence4522120
Harrison435072
Gibson434792
DeKalb427185
Clinton427053
Montgomery423688
Whitley395239
Huntington390080
Steuben385557
Miami381166
Knox371890
Jasper364747
Putnam359660
Wabash353479
Adams341054
Ripley339170
Jefferson329281
White313554
Daviess296299
Wells291381
Decatur284792
Fayette279562
Greene277885
Posey271333
Scott265653
LaGrange265570
Clay259447
Washington240332
Randolph239781
Spencer232131
Jennings229849
Starke215953
Fountain212046
Sullivan211442
Owen198756
Fulton194840
Jay193630
Carroll188520
Orange182654
Perry182637
Rush173025
Vermillion168843
Franklin167835
Tipton162845
Parke146116
Blackford134632
Pike133734
Pulaski116645
Newton107734
Brown101941
Crawford99514
Benton98514
Martin88615
Warren81815
Switzerland7858
Union71010
Ohio56511
Unassigned0414

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1082815

Reported Deaths: 19428
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1258081400
Cuyahoga1119722115
Hamilton799721205
Montgomery514061014
Summit47145945
Lucas42119788
Butler38338584
Stark32273906
Lorain24997481
Warren24274298
Mahoning21546588
Lake20653369
Clermont19761238
Delaware18512133
Licking16418212
Fairfield16176199
Trumbull16032468
Medina15268264
Greene15063244
Clark13983299
Wood13080189
Portage12839203
Allen11639232
Richland11349199
Miami10670217
Muskingum8803133
Wayne8793211
Columbiana8778229
Pickaway8564121
Marion8523135
Tuscarawas8473244
Erie7888154
Hancock6914127
Ross6846155
Ashtabula6805170
Geauga6686148
Scioto6406101
Belmont5881167
Union570848
Lawrence5549102
Jefferson5525151
Huron5430119
Darke5355123
Sandusky5347120
Seneca5282121
Athens519158
Washington5155109
Auglaize490784
Mercer480385
Shelby469293
Knox4486110
Madison435661
Putnam4278100
Fulton422469
Ashland421789
Defiance419697
Crawford3975107
Brown394157
Logan381676
Preble379598
Clinton372163
Ottawa366679
Highland355062
Williams339275
Champaign331658
Guernsey315653
Jackson312551
Perry294950
Morrow284939
Fayette281950
Hardin270864
Henry268666
Coshocton265257
Holmes2603101
Van Wert243463
Adams237852
Pike237634
Gallia235349
Wyandot231055
Hocking215362
Carroll191547
Paulding172640
Meigs144840
Noble133337
Monroe132042
Morgan108423
Harrison108137
Vinton83115
Unassigned02
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 27°
Angola
Cloudy
34° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 27°
Huntington
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 30°
Decatur
Cloudy
38° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 27°
Van Wert
Cloudy
41° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 32°
Rain moves in overnight into Sunday morning and looks to hang around much of the day, likely forcing Mother's Day plans indoors
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events