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Tissue Donation

Tissue Donation

Alternate Names

  • the gift of life


Each year hundreds of thousands of people receive tissue and organs that have been donated by other people. These transplants save many lives and enhance the quality of many more. Tissue that has been donated can be used to repair defects and injuries, and restore mobility. Surgeons are now able to transplant bones, tendons, and ligaments.

What is the information for this topic?

Nearly anyone can be a tissue donor. Eye tissue can be used even if a donor is older, wears glasses, or is visually impaired. In fact, eye donations can even be made by people who are blind, as long as their blindness was not caused by corneal disease.
Tissue donations cannot be taken from people who have:
  • an infection in the blood known as sepsis
  • cancer
  • tested positive or are at risk for HIV
Tissue removal is performed shortly after a person dies. Donated tissue is then processed into almost 400 forms that are freeze-dried, frozen, or used fresh. The tissue is then used in orthopedic, neurologic, plastic, cardiovascular, and oral reconstructive surgery.
For instance, tissue can be used:
  • to repair bone defects
  • to reconstruct hip and knee joints
  • to treat burn injuries
  • to fuse or correct scoliosis, a curvature of the back
  • to replace bone loss from trauma
  • to salvage limbs following tumor surgery
  • for plastic surgery
  • for corneal transplants
  • for dental surgery
Facts about tissue donation include:
  • Tissue donation involves no disfigurement to the donor. An open casket at the funeral is still possible.
  • As many as 20 people can benefit from one donation.
  • There is no cost to the donor family for tissue donation.
  • All major religions support tissue donation.
  • A person who has signed a donor card will receive the same medical care as someone who has not. Some people worry that if the hospital knows that a person is a potential organ donor, the healthcare professionals will be less aggressive with life-saving interventions. This is not true.
  • Information about the donor is released to the recipients only if the donor family allows it.
A person who wants to be an organ or tissue donor after his or her death can sign a card indicating his or her wishes. This can be done when renewing a driver's license, or by filling out a donor card. These cards are available through several organ and tissue donor organizations.
It is important that potential donors talk with family members about these wishes ahead of time, because family members are the people that are usually asked to consent to donation. This decision is often made under the most difficult circumstances. The decision is much easier if the dying person has told his or her family in advance that he or she wants to be a tissue donor. Many families are comforted by the fact that their family member's donation improved someone's quality of life.


"Organ and Tissue Donation Initiative" [hyperLink url="http://organ donor/gov/faq.html" linkTitle="organ donor/gov/faq.html"]organ donor/gov/faq.html[/hyperLink]

"Organ Donation: Get the Facts" [hyperLink url="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

"American Red Cross: Tissue Services", [hyperLink url="" linkTitle=""][/hyperLink]

New England Eye and Tissue Transplant Bank Pamphlet

New England Organ Bank, INC. Pamphlet

The Merck Manual of Medical Information, Home edition, 1997

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