14 August 2006
ByAppeared in BioNews 371
A British woman who had undergone a standard IVF procedure at the Leicester Royal Infirmary has died unexpectedly while undergoing another medical procedure.
A coroner and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) is currently investigating the cause of death. During the egg collection operation for IVF, a needle is inserted into the ovaries through the vagina wall. Any bleeding is carefully monitored and stemmed, and the patient is usually discharged on the same day, but serious complications can arise if bleeding occurs and goes unnoticed.
Doctors at the Leicester Royal Infirmary say that no surgical errors had taken place during the egg retrieval. Dr Allan Cole, Medical Director of University Hospital Leicester, stated: 'We are highly confident that the hearing will find no blunder happened during the surgical procedure by the doctor or any other clinician. The bleeding that occurred would not have been unexpected and we can categorically deny that the patient died as a result of haemorrhaging'.
Another possible cause of the woman's death could be a rare condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS involves extreme sensitivity to the drugs used to increase egg production for IVF and affects up to six per cent of women undergoing treatment. In April 2005, 33-year-old Temilola Akinbolagbe died in King's College Hospital after a massive heart attack caused by a blood clot resulting from OHSS. She was the first known woman in the UK to die from OHSS-related complications.
IVF is regarded as a safe procedure - more than 3 million babies have been born using the technique since 1978. Dr Mark Hamilton, chairman of the British Fertility Society, said: 'The procedures used in clinics are very safe and serious complications for patients are extremely rare. In the UK, over 30,000 women receive IVF treatment each year and more than 10,000 children are born as a result'. Statistics published on Assisted Reproduction in Europe also back up the claim that IVF is safe, revealing that there were only two deaths out of 224,000 women undergoing IVF treatment in 2002. Clare Brown, chief executive of Infertility Network UK, said: 'Assisted conception in the UK is heavily regulated and procedures are monitored closely. This is an extremely rare case'.