Ask The Experts - Lab Mix-ups and PFC's SurTransfer(sm)

Posted on August 15, 2004 by Inception Fertility
![](**Q. How can I be sure that PFC will not accidentally confuse my eggs and my husband's sperm and our embryos with someone else's?** **A.** PFC recognizes that even with the best intentions, human error can occur. We've therefore designed our strict SurTransferSM laboratory security system of color-coding and clearly labeling all specimens and verbally identifying all patients. We have also devoted considerable time and effort into assembling one of the most highly trained teams in the country. Each of our Embryologists is Board Certified and Licensed, even though the State of California does not currently require licensure for Embryologists. ![](**When a patient is scheduled for a procedure,** a written procedure requisition is sent by the Physician to the laboratory staff, giving them at least 24hour notice and clear instructions on what is to be done. Each patient is assigned a specific color for their test tubes and Petri dishes; no two patients having procedures on the same day will be assigned the same color. Each of the patient's specimens is carefully labeled with clear and unique identifying information that includes the patient's name and date of birth. During their stay in the lab, eggs, sperm and embryos are kept in incubators. We avoid assigning two cases to a single incubator on the same day. Each incubator has an exterior door and an interior door. Both doors are clearly labeled with name and color code. This labeling protocol allows the embryologist to verify the name twice before ever handling the specimen. We have two embryologists performing all critical procedures to ensure accuracy; generally one handles the material while the other observes and verifies. We are not required to assign two people to procedures, but redundancy eliminates the possibility of an error. **Both embryologists sign off after checking the paperwork, labeling the specimen and performing the procedure.** ![](**Accepting sperm samples:** When a man delivers his sample, we require it to be labeled with his unique information, including name, birth date and signature. We ask to see identification. The embryologist receiving the sample will sign that s/he received it and note the time and date of receipt. If s/he passes the sample to another member of staff, that individual will sign for it, thus continuing a chain of responsible custody. **Egg retrieval:** A patient undergoing egg retrieval is asked in the retrieval room to identify herself before receiving sedating drugs. The embryologist will not rely on the physician, nor state the patient's name and ask for a "yes or no" answer, but will instead ask her to state her full name. This avoids any possible miscommunication. As the procedure gets underway, two embryologists will take responsibility for accepting the collected eggs. **Inseminating eggs:** This is arguably the most important part of the IVF procedure. While it is a relatively simple procedure to perform, we are sensitive to its significance. Without any exceptions, two embryologists perform the insemination. Even if there is only one egg to inseminate, or even if there is only one insemination on a given day, two people do it. **Embryo transfer:** Similar to the retrieval procedure, one embryologist will ask the patient her name and a second embryologist will witness and verify that the correct embryos are loaded into the transfer catheter. As a final check, the embryologist will hand the catheter to the physician and state the patient's full name and the number of embryos. **Freezing and thawing of sperm or embryos:** ![](![](![]( Frozen specimens are extensively labeled and catalogued. Thawing can only be directed by a physician, and as a rule an embryologist never handles or thaws a specimen without a witness. Once a specimen is thawed, there's no going back.

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