Problem of assisted reproductive technology in Japan after 2011 earthquake crisis

13 06 2011

To the Editor:

The recent publication regarding problems for assisted reproduction clinics in Japan after the 2011 earthquake is very interesting (1). Ishihara and Yoshimura noted the problem of loss of embryos, and the surprising revelation that no frozen embryos in liquid nitrogen tanks were lost (1). Ishihara and Yoshimura said that “Emergency power supply is the first priority issue” (1). Indeed, the danger to the infrastructure after the natural crisis is the big concern. Although there might be no structural damage to some preserved embryos, the quality of the embryos after the shock wave is still questionable. There are also many other expected problems of assisted reproductive technology in Japan after 2011 earthquake crisis. Examples include the allocation of medical resources and repairing the laboratories, as well as the newly emerging problems in reproductive medicine due to the nuclear crisis, a problem superimposed on the Japanese 2011 quake crisis.

Somsri Wiwanitkit
Viroj Wiwanitkit, M.D.
Wiwanitkit House
Bangkok Thailand

Reference
1. Ishihara O, Yoshimura Y. Damages at Japanese assisted reproductive technology clinics by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of 2011. Fertil Steril. 2011 Jun 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Published online in Fertility and Sterility doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.06.045

The Authors Respond:

We thank Drs. Wiwanitkit for their interest in our report (1). There certainly are still mounting problems and concerns existing, although the stricken areas started reconstruction. The consequence of the earthquake and tsunami has been nothing but complicated. As suggested, the problem of unsettled nuclear power plants is the most serious one of the current subjects requiring close observation. However, it seems too early to discuss the fate of frozen embryos in liquid nitrogen only from supposition.

A lot of volunteer doctors have been participating rescue operations in Tohoku area since the first week of the catastrophe. Many gynecologists and obstetricians have been working mainly for perinatal care requirements in the severely affected places as well. The demand for assisted reproduction practice seems to shrink. At least one clinic in the affected area was obliged to close their operation due to the evacuation order and the frozen embryos kept at the clinic were transferred to the other places. However, most of the clinics already returned to their daily practice for infertile couples.

It seems to be necessary to monitor the situation of affected area in a medium to long term. Japan Society for Reproductive Medicine has set up the plan to send out questionnaire this summer for follow-up survey. We also started to write up a new emergency plan guideline including measures to deal with power failure at clinic level. It is important for us to emerge from despondency and to take this lesson as an opportunity to establish better clinical practice.

Osamu Ishihara, M.D., Ph.D.a
Yasunori Yoshimura, M.D., Ph.D.b
aDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Saitama Medical University
Saitama, Japan
bDepartment of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Faculty of Medicine
Keio University
Tokyo, Japan

Reference
1. Ishihara O, Yoshimura Y. Damages at Japanese assisted reproductive technology clinics by the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of 2011. Fertil Steril. 2011 Jun 3. [Epub ahead of print]

Published online in Fertility and Sterility doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2011.06.044

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