"We are so very sorry this happened, and we want to do all that we can to support our families and patients through this very hard time", said Patti DePompei, president of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, in a video posted on UH's Facebook page.
University Hospitals, in Cleveland, has apologised following the fault at one of its fertility clinics last weekend. Some specimens that were already thawed since Sunday for planned procedures were found not to be viable, the Plain Dealer reported.
The organization said it has launched an investigation into the cause of the malfunction, bringing in independent experts.
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"It's devastating", DePompei told WKYC.
"We are now looking at what specimens existed in that gradient", Liu told WKYC.
This story has been corrected to show that around 700 patients are affected, not 500 patients.
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The storage tank had off-site monitoring and an audible alarm that would alert staff to such a temperature change.
The incident comes as a growing number of women choose to freeze their eggs due to illness, or because they are concerned that the quality and quantity of their eggs will drop over time. Some of these eggs and embryos have been stored in there for decades. It's not clear how the affected patients will be compensated. Hospital staff has set up a call center to arrange meetings or calls between patients and their physicians to address their concerns.
The womb-wrenching flub was caused when heat levels unexpectedly rose inside a liquid nitrogen tank at the fertility center, "compromising" up to 2,000 eggs and embryos, DePompei admitted in a Facebook post. "People move, their addresses change but we've made our best attempts to track down everyone". It remains to be seen whether patients whose tissue was in the freezer will still be expected to pay, DePompei told NBC News.
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The news came to patients in the form of a letter on Thursday.