Donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and even save lives.
In case of tissue donation, for which most deceased persons can be potential donors, the local tissue recovery organization receives a referral from a hospital, medical examiner or funeral home notifying them that an individual has died. An initial determination of donor eligibility is made based on basic criteria and available information (i.e., age, cause of death, immediate evidence of infection, etc.). If it is determined that the deceased individual is a candidate for donation, the state donor registry is searched and one or more persons who know the potential donor (i.e. historians) are contacted for a medical and social history. If the potential donor is not found on the registry, his or her legally authorized representative (usually a spouse, relative or close friend) is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation. Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of death. Unlike organs, tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period of time for use in burn cases, ligament repair, bone replacement, etc. (American Association of Tissue Banks, 2010).
Each year, life-saving and life-enhancing tissue is provided by approximately 30,000 tissue donors.
One tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people
Tissue that can be donated for transplantation include:
Transplanted skin is used as replacement tissue over 1,000,000 times per year. Three quarters of this usage occurs in life-saving circumstances such as severe burns. It is estimated that another 500,000 patients could have their wound-healing time shortened if enough skin were available. Skin is removed in a thin layer, generally from the back, buttocks, and back of the thighs. Skin donation does not interfere with an open casket funeral for the donor.
Banked bone is used to replace bone that has been destroyed by tumors, trauma, and infection, allowing limbs to be spared that would otherwise have to be amputated. Most frequently, the long bones from the legs are recovered. Where necessary, prosthetic devices are used to replace the removed bone, therefore, bone donation does not interfere with an open casket funeral.
Soft tissues such as tendons, fascia, and pericardium are used in ligament repairs, craniotomy and dural defects repairs, eyelid repair, periodontal surgery and bladder suspension and repair.
Eyes and Corneas
Corneas are used in over 45,000 transplant procedures yearly to restore sight. A prosthetic eye is inserted after eye removal, so there is no change in the appearance of the donor for an open casket funeral.
Heart valves are used in cardiovascular surgery for patients with valvular disease. The heart valves are recovered from hearts which can not be used for solid organ transplantation.
Tissue Bank Coordinator
MCG Hospitals & Clinics