An error of this type has never happened in the IVF laboratory at Pacific Fertility Center. This is because we take special precautions and extra care in following SurTransferTM protocols and double check every step of each procedure. Petri dishes and test tubes containing sperm, eggs or embryos are labeled with duplicate identifying information for each patient and color coded to prevent mix-ups. If we receive a sperm sample from John Smith, for example, his ID will be checked when he gives us the sample and he will be assigned a color (red, for example). Any tubes or dishes that are used in the processing of the sample will contain his full name and his partner's full name, another piece of identifying information such as date of birth or social security number, and will be color coded in red. In addition to these labeling procedures, there is a cross-checking system to prevent human errors. Each time a procedure is performed by an Embryologist, a second Embryologist has to witness the event before they are released to a Physician. If the sperm are being used to inseminate his partner's eggs, a second Embryologist verifies that the correct eggs and sperm have been removed from the incubator before the Embryologist performing the procedure can actually proceed with the insemination of the eggs. At the conclusion of the procedure, both Embryologists sign the patient's chart, which is the legal record of the procedure. These same checks and balances are used during each laboratory procedure and can be seen in action by patients having embryo transfers. At transfer time, the Embryologist performing the transfer will ask the patient their full name and date of birth, and repeat the name and date of birth back to the patient to verify what they heard. A photograph of the embryos being transferred is taken with the patients name imprinted on the photograph. The identity of the dish containing the embryos is double checked by a second Embryologist and the embryos are loaded into the transfer catheter. As the catheter is handed over to the Physician, the Embryologist will repeat the patient's name and give details of the contents of the catheter (e.g. "here are 2 embryos for Joyce and John Smith.") The photograph of the embryos is given to the patient and a copy is kept in the medical record.
This "double key" system with two embryologists is why we think it is important to do IVF in a lab that has at least two embryologists on duty at all times, including weekends.
Surplus embryos being frozen after a transfer are catalogued with full name, ID (date of birth or social security number) date of freezing and details of the embryos being frozen. Embryos are frozen inside special straws and in addition to careful labeling, color-coding is also used as an added precaution. As with other procedures, a second member of the laboratory staff has to witness the procedure and verify patient and embryo details for any freezing or thawing event.
As with any laboratory procedures, we welcome questions on this subject and would be happy to discuss this topic further.