Risks associated with cryopreservation: a survey of assisted conception units in the UK and Ireland

Hum Fertil (Camb). 2008 Mar;11(1):33-42. doi: 10.1080/14647270701553280.


A number of recent, high-profile incidents involving loss or damage to cryopreserved material held in IVF units or sperm storage centres have highlighted the need for centres to carefully review their cryostorage practice and take action. Critical disasters involving lost or damaged patient material, although high profile, are still thought to be rare, and there has been concern that we should ensure that any response is proportionate to risk. However, as no regulators, manufacturers or similar professional disciplines have collected information in the long term, our knowledge of the true incidence of such adverse events is extremely poor. Recognizing the need for some solid data, the UK Association of Clinical Embryologists (ACE) conducted a survey on the subject, at its joint meeting with the Association of Irish Clinical Embryologists (ICE) (January, 2006). Questions were asked in relation to the risk of: injury to personnel; and potential loss of and potential damage to stored material. The number of serious and not so serious adverse events/situations relating to both staff and sample safety are discussed in detail. The incidence of problems was certainly higher than we had imagined; the lack of general training and awareness amongst our staff is a serious cause for concern, and appears to leave the industry vulnerable. Moreover, the survey highlighted the need for a coordinated approach to the collection of more detailed information both prospectively and retrospectively. Regulators, manufacturers, allied professional bodies and, more importantly, centres should be encouraged to share both recent and historic data relating to adverse events, in order that accurate risk assessments can be made in future.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Occupational
  • Cryopreservation*
  • Embryology / methods
  • Equipment Contamination
  • Equipment Failure
  • Female
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • Male
  • Nitrogen
  • Risk Assessment
  • Semen Preservation / methods*
  • Specimen Handling
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom


  • Nitrogen