Donated tissue can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and can even save lives. One person’s gift can be a miracle for many.
Unlike organs, tissues can be donated up to 24 hours after a person’s heart has stopped beating. Bone tissue, connective tissue, membrane tissue, and cardiovascular tissue are all types of tissue that can be donated. That includes bone, skin, heart valves, tendons, veins, and nerves used in surgeries and medical research.
Donations of bone tissue can be used to repair bone defects or fractures caused by severe trauma, cancer or other diseases. Bone tissue can be widely used to restore mobility, reconstruct limbs, and rebuild jaws in dental procedures. Bone tissues that are typically recovered include bones from the arms and legs, as well as the hip bones.
Cervical and lumbar spinal fusion
Segmental bone loss treatment
Dental/oral maxillofacial procedures
Donations of connective tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and cartilage can be used to rebuild joints and restore cartilage surfaces. Patients injured in sporting activities, by trauma, through arthritis or other diseases can regain independence in daily activities with restored mobility. Connective tissues are typically recovered from the joints in the leg and arm.
Joint reconstruction in the knee, ankle, hip
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) reconstruction
Ligament repair of the hand, elbow, and foot
Donations of membrane tissues include skin (dermis), pericardium, and fascia lata. Donated skin can be used as a life-saving covering for severely burned patients, providing a natural barrier to infection. Membrane tissues can also be used in open heart and urological surgeries, abdominal wall repair and post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. Membrane tissues are typically recovered from the back, the lining around the muscles and the heart.
Soft tissue repair
Breast reconstruction following mastectomy
Pelvic floor reconstruction
Cardiovascular tissues include heart valves, veins and arteries. The transplantation of heart valves can be a life-saving procedure for patients suffering from inherited heart defects or heart damage due to infection. The aortic and pulmonic valves are removed from the donated heart and then specially preserved until a matching recipient is identified. Donated heart valves are able to be preserved for months or even years.
Veins and arteries are used in heart bypass surgery to reestablish blood circulation in patients with coronary artery disease, and donated veins can help avoid amputation.
Replacement for damaged heart valves
Aortic patch grafts
Coronary and peripheral revascularization
A corneal transplant is a surgical procedure that replaces part of a person’s cornea with corneal tissue from a donor. Cornea donation is necessary for the preservation and restoration of sight — one cornea donor can restore sight to 2 people.
The cornea is the clear dome-like window covering the front of the eye that allows the light to pass through to the retina, and enables us to see. According to the Mayo Clinic, a corneal transplant is a surgical procedure that uses donor corneal tissue to replace a person’s damaged corneal tissue.
While the term “eye donation” is commonly used, there is no whole eye transplantation. Most often only corneal tissue is recovered for transplantation.
Corneal transplants restore sight to those suffering from vision loss mainly due to corneal blindness commonly caused by:
Other reasons for corneal transplantation may include corneal injuries or infections.
Everyone is a universal donor for corneal tissue — the donor’s blood type does not have to match the blood type of the recipient. Age, eye color and eyesight are not factors either. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases, most people are potential cornea donors.