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Woman dies after routine IVF treatment

14 August 2006
Appeared 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'.

Patient dies after IVF treatment
BBC News Online |  10 August 2006
Probe into woman's death after IVF
The Times |  10 August 2006
Woman dies during IVF treatment
The Daily Mail |  10 August 2006
Woman's IVF death is rare, say experts
The Times |  11 August 2006
4 October 2010 - by Matthew Smart 
Researchers have found a molecule that they believe plays a key role in ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) - a potentially life-threatening condition that can arise from IVF treatment....
21 August 2006 - by BioNews 
In BioNews 371 we published a story about a British woman who died at the Leicester Royal Infirmary having undergone a standard IVF procedure. It has been brought to our attention by University Hospitals Leicester (UHL) that there were a number of inaccuracies in the article, including the name of...
1 July 2005 - by BioNews 
A UK woman left brain-damaged after a stroke caused by a rare side effect of IVF treatment is set to receive 'very substantial' agreed damages. The 34-year-old patient, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, became pregnant but then developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). Fertility doctor Paul Rainsbury, of...
18 April 2005 - by BioNews 
A woman who was undergoing fertility treatment in the UK has died, a few days after she began the IVF process. Temilola Akinbolagbe, who was 33 years old, is understood to be the first woman to die as a result of the treatment in the UK. Only three other women...
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