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Tracker to prevent IVF embryo 'mix-ups' shortlisted for prize

13 September 2010
Appeared in BioNews 575

A new technology used by Hull IVF unit to prevent clinical mix-ups when sperm and eggs are combined in the laboratory is to be rolled-out for use across the UK, and has been nominated for an award. The system, which activates audio and visual alarms if the wrong sample is used, will reduce the risk of mismatches happening.

Clinicians in Hull began using the design after several high profile cases where a man's sperm sample was mixed with the wrong egg during IVF procedures. The innovation also involves a tracking process to make sure that once an embryo is created from the right people's gametes, it is then transferred to the correct woman.

A spokesperson for the unit said that while IVF mix-ups were uncommon, there had been four 'highly publicised serious adverse events' in the UK. Two of these involved the misidentification of sperm samples, resulting in the live birth of twins. Consequently, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) introduced rules requiring that the movement of sperm, eggs and embryos be monitored to prevent further incidents.

A spokesperson from the Hull unit said that in the UK 37,000 women have fertility treatments in the UK every year and that 'the system provides invaluable reassurance for patients, nurses and embryologists alike.'

The unit, which is based at the Hull Royal Infirmary, has also been nominated for an award in the Best Use of Technology category at the Independent Health Care Awards, with the winners to be announced on 14 September.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Finalist for The 2010 Independent Healthcare Awards
Independent Healthcare Awards |  13 September 2010
Hull IVF unit innovation is to be rolled out across UK
BBC News |  6 September 2010
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