The Dateline story “Inconceivable” aired this week and brought to light the nightmarish scenario of transferring embryos to the wrong patient during an IVF cycle. Texas Fertility Center would like to respond to the news with sympathy for the families involved, as well as reassurance for couples currently undergoing infertility treatment.
IVF lab mistakes, like the switch that occurred in Carolyn Savage’s case, are exceedingly rare. In the past decade, fertility specialists in the United States have performed approximately 1.5 million IVF cycles with a handful of reported problems. Even so, if you are preparing for a fresh or frozen cycle of IVF, you want reassurance that your fertility specialist is overly compulsive about precautions and checklists.
What TFC Wants You to Know about Embryo Transfer Protocols to prevent IVF Lab Mix-ups
1) Each TFC patient receives an arm band, like the one that Carolyn Savage wore on the day of her transfer. Your TFC fertility doctor, nurses, anesthesiologist, and embryologists each independently verify your identity on both the day of your retrieval and your embryo transfer. Your procedure cannot occur until any mistake has been corrected and all professional staff members have signed off on any correction. (Savage reports that her birth year was incorrect on her band.)
2) Prior to the egg retrieval, the operating team performs a “time out” where they verbally review your name, birth date the type of procedure that will be performed, the number of embryos that will be transferred (if the procedure is an embryo transfer), and other key details.
3) Following your retrieval, your assigned embryologist places your eggs into prepared, dishes labeled with your name for culture.
4) The embryologist then comes to your recovery area to confirm how many eggs were retrieved. Before any sperm are added to the eggs, you and your husband will each sign a form confirming your identities and stating that either your husband’s or a specific donor’s sperm is to be used to fertilize your eggs.
5) Although there are many work stations in the laboratory, only one patient’s gametes can be in each lab area at a time. Incubators are labeled by patient name and each patient’s identity is confirmed before and after the gametes are removed or returned to the incubator.
6) Prior to your embryo transfer, you will see and verify the identity and number of embryos that will be transferred into your uterus. You will then watch a monitor equipped with closed circuit television as the embryologist loads the embryos into the transfer catheter and brings it into the operating room. Following the transfer, you will be able to watch the embryologist confirm that each embryo was successfully transferred.
Texas Fertility Center and its fully accredited laboratory partner, Austin IVF, maintain the highest standards to ensure that IVF lab mix-ups do not occur on our watch. Read more about our IVF lab protocols and long-standing safeguards here >>>