What tissue you can donate
One tissue donor can potentially enhance the lives of many people.
Just as importantly as organ donation, some donors will also be able to donate tissue. The tissues donated by one donor can enable up to eleven people to benefit from tissue transplant surgery.
Unlike organ donation, it may be possible to donate tissue up to 24 hours after death for corneas and up to 48 hours after death for heart valves and tendons. Tissue donation is occasionally possible for people who die outside hospital, but most tissue donors normally need to die in a hospital. So, every opportunity for donation is very precious.
The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service (SNBTS) supplies many human tissues and cells for transplantation in Scotland.
Find out more about tissue donation and paediatric and neonatal tissue donation and how this can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and even save lives:
Types of tissue that can be donated
Donated heart valves can be life-saving. Heart valves are needed for a number of different types of operations, including heart reconstruction in newborn babies with heart defects, or to replace valves that have become infected or damaged in adults.
An individual tissue donor can donate two heart valves (the aortic valve and the pulmonary valve).
Tendon donations are used in knee operations to strengthen the knee or to repair ligament injuries, for example after sporting injuries or traffic accidents, or for patients born with very loose joints. Such donations can allow a patient in chronic pain to go back to being pain-free. They can also allow someone to return to employment or to being able to play different types of sports again.
Eye donations, specifically the cornea (the front part of the eye), are used in the treatment of some patients who are losing their eyesight. These donations are very precious, as they can be the difference between a patient losing their eyesight and keeping it.
Skin is not currently donated in Scotland, but might be in future. Donations are used to treat patients who have suffered extensive burns involving large areas of their body. The donated skin is used as a dressing during recovery, protecting the patients from infection and from dehydration. Such donations can be life-saving.
Tissue donation from living donors
Bone grafts can make a significant difference to a patient’s quality of life. They can help correct spinal deformities in children, help heal fractures that have failed to heal on their own, and even encourage new growth where diseased bone has been removed. However, for bone grafts to take place, bone needs to be donated by donors.
The most common source of bone is from patients needing a hip operation, where the surgeon needs to remove part of the bone as part of their treatment. The piece of bone that is normally removed can be used to help other patients.
Bone donation is entirely voluntary - whether or not a patient decides to donate the piece of bone being removed won’t affect their hip operation in any way. However, it is amazing to know that one patient’s operation could give another patient a whole new lease of life.