Monitoring incubators in IVF laboratories

Watch your incubator temperature

Dr. Denny Sakkas, Scientific Director at Boston-IVF, Waltham USA, delivered this abstract at ASRM last October, in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii.

Validating the temperature and humidity of equipment accurately and continuously is a challenge; particularly smaller incubators, such as benchtop incubators, used routinely for culturing embryos in IVF laboratories. Many laboratory accrediting agencies require a secondary validation of temperature and will not allow reliance solely on a digital reading from the instrument itself.

The aim of this study was to assess the Thermodata system and the T+ Button adapted for use in incubator environments to continually read temperature and humidity in small areas. This is the link to the abstract.

The small and precise T+ buttons are calibrated by Thermodata’s NVLAP accredited laboratory to ISO/IEC 17025 and traceable to National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) standards. The buttons are calibrated to four reference points: 0⁰, 25⁰, 37.5⁰ and 50⁰ C. After calibration, they have an accuracy of ±0.1000⁰ C and resolution of 0.0625⁰C.

The study indicated that continuous temperature monitoring is critical for proper medical laboratory operation from a quality perspective.

The information collected:

  • Facilitates strict Quality Control of routine IVF instrumentation and in particular Benchtop incubators
  • Provides the clinical user with a means for challenging the response time of incubators to fluctuations in environment
  • Can help with the maintenance of a constant, regulated state of control for temperature sensitive areas

Findings of the study

Validate the external display readings of the incubators

  Different types of incubators maintain temperature differently, even when the digital display shows the same value.







Monitor usage impact

Gauge the recovery times of different types of incubators.

Assess incubator usage during day time so as to distribute usage more evenly over time.









Map temperature in different parts of an incubator

Moving the same button to different areas of a benchtop incubator, provided a more accurate assessment of the equipment.









Troubleshoot temperature variances

The heating element was damaged on the right side of this incubator, yet no alarm or indication by the incubator temperature display.









Temperature spike noted but no incubator alert received.

Increase in temperature noted without notice from the inbuilt incubator alarm.  Embryos were exposed to higher temperature for about 30 minutes.











Comparison of measurement in media and dry

T+ Button readings over 24h in a Benchtop incubator when in media and dry.

Readings were collected every 20 minutes over a 24 hour cycle in a benchtop incubator when in media and dry.