Tissue Donation

What Is Tissue Donation?

Most people are aware that hundreds of lives are saved every year by donated organs, such as hearts and kidneys. They may not realise that donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for others and even save them. As many as 50 people can be helped by the donation from one person.

Which tissues can be donated?

Many kinds of tissues can be donated after death:

Eyes can help restore sight to people with cornea problems (the clear part of the eye). This may be as a result of damage caused by eye disease or injury, or defects from birth, and the white part of the eye (the sclera) can be used in operations to rebuild the eye.

Heart valves can be transplanted to save the lives of children born with heart defects and adults with damaged heart valves.

Skin can be used as a natural dressing, helping treat people with serious burns. This can save the lives by stopping infections, can help reduce scarring and reduces pain.

Bone is important for people receiving artificial joint replacements, or replacing bone that has been removed due to illness or injury. It helps reduce pain and improve mobility.

Tendons the elastic-like cords that attach bones and muscles to each other can be donated to help rebuild damaged joints, which helps people move more easily.

Can you choose which tissues to donate?

Yes. Only those tissues for which you have been given permission will be donated.

Can anyone become a tissue donor?

Almost anyone can be considered as a tissue donor, however, there are some rare exemptions. To ensure that all donated tissues are safe, the donor’s medical and lifestyle history is assessed similar to blood donors, to protect the person receiving the tissue from infection.

How long after death can tissue be donated?

The best time is within 24 hours after someone has died. However, sometimes it is possible to donate up to 48 hours after death.

Can you tell if a patient has been a tissue donor?

Throughout the donation process, the donor is treated with respect and dignity. After donation, the specialist nursing team will ensure that the donor maintains a natural appearance. Of course you may see your loved one after they have donated and before they are laid to rest if you wish.

Will tissue donation interfere with funeral arrangements?

Donation will not delay any funeral arrangements.

After donation will we receive any information?

Yes, with permission an NHSBT specialist nurse will write a thank you letter and provide information about the donation and contact details. Tissue donation is entirely voluntary and dependent on the generosity of patients and their families.

How to register

Registering to be a tissue donor is quick and easy. To be a donor after your death, you simply need to join the organ donor register and tell your closest family and friends about your decision.

You can join online at nhsbt.nhs.uk/tissuedonation

Or call 0300123 23 23

Further Information

For further information please visit nhsbt.nhs.uk/tissuedonation

If you would like to discuss tissue donation in more detail, you can contact a Nurse from the National Referral Centre on: 0800 432 0559 (freephone)