Q: What steps should fertility clinics take to avoid accidentally switching eggs, sperm, and embryos?
A: Patient should feel free to ask their infertility clinic about their standard operating procedure for maintaining the chain of custody for sperm, eggs, and embryos to avoid mistakes in IVF and IUIs. An fertility clinic must have a clear and verifiable approach to “Chain of Custody” when it comes to handling all patients’ semen, oocytes (eggs) and ultimately embryos.
A typical process has double-witnessed (patient/embryologist or embryologist/embryologist) documentation of receipt of sperm and eggs, including checking of picture ID. This is followed at each step of the way through handling in the IVF laboratory with documented, witness verification of every step where gametes (eggs & sperm) and embryos are processed and readied for use, transfer and cryopreservation (freezing).
Permanent labeling is used on all cups, dishes, tubes & cryo-carriers. Labels have a minimum of two, but preferably three, unique patient identifiers on them, which are matched & confirmed at each step of the process in the laboratory.
If at any point there is compromise of this given chain of gamete & embryo custody, then the default action must be to alert all parties involved including the patients themselves, with discard of the materials involved. While this may seem profoundly conservative, the consequences of any errors in the chain of custody in reproductive terms can be dire.
Dr. Michael Tucker is the Director of Embryology for Shady Grove Fertility & Georgia Reproductive Services.
For more information on what steps fertility clinics should take to avoid accidentally switching eggs, sperm and embryos, check out this Creating a Family blog on that topic.Image credit: IRRI Images
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