North Texas Fertility Centers Discuss Safeguards

Two fertility centers across the country from each other malfunctioned on the same day, so NBC 5 visited a clinic in North Texas that is working to safeguard against the same type of accident.

There are close to 10,000 frozen eggs and embryos belonging to about 2,000 patients stored at Dallas Fertility Associates in North Dallas. The clinic that has an almost $30,000 security system for eggs and embryos and they treat their storage room like a bank vault.

"For some people this is their only chance to conceive," said reproductive endocrinologist Sam Chantilis.

Chantilis said he was stunned to learn that two fertility clinics had equipment failures on the same day. He says storage tanks don't run on electrical power — liquid nitrogen keeps the eggs frozen, and that nitrogen must be replenished because it does evaporate.

Untouched, the temperature remains constant.

"This is one of the worst nightmare scenarios that every fertility clinic has," Chantilis said. "Just nine months ago we upgraded our security system in which each tank is individually monitored."

Lab director Oscar Perez said the storage tanks are not only measured by hand once a week, but they are also electronically monitored by probes that measure the amount of nitrogen left in the tank and the temperature in case it starts to rise.

If there are any problems, an alarm is triggered. At least five emails go out to management.

And that is also when the text messages begin. They pop up every five minutes regardless of the time of day.

Twice a year there are in-person inspections by a board, in addition to the self regulation.

Leaders at Dallas Fertility Associates say that once an embryo or egg has been compromised, as in San Francisco or Cleveland, there's no way to know if it's still viable until the patient decides to undergo in-vitro fertilization and the egg is thawed.

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