Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tissue Donation

Every year thousands of lives are saved or enhanced from the gift of tissue donation. Whether it’s a burn patient who has received countless skin grafts to heal or a athlete receiving a donor tendon so they can play their favorite sport again, tissue donation is the ultimate gift of life to those in need.

One full tissue donor can save and enhance the lives of more than 50 people with the various grafts that can be made. In 2009 alone, nearly 1,000 tissue grafts were recovered from 57 donors at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. These grafts included skin, bone and tendons, heart valves and veins.

Skin grafts save the lives of thousands of burn patients every year. Grafts recovered are about the same thickness of a sunburn peel. They are processed and meshed to provide greater surface area. These grafts aid burn victims by preventing fluid loss and infection. The average donor yields nearly 3.5 to 4 square feet of skin, while the average severely burned patient requires nearly 40 square feet of skin. Skin is recovered from the back and front and back of the thighs. Burn victims require so much skin because the body will continuously reject skin grafts, so they have to be replaced every few days.

Bones from the upper and lower extremities are used in many different ways. They can be cut into small rings to alleviate severe back pain in spinal fusions. These bones also can be cut into cubes or crushed for orthopedic or dental surgeries. Tendons recovered from the lower extremities are used most commonly in ACL repairs. Bone and tendon grafts from one donor can enhance the lives of up to 50 people with the various grafts that can be made.

If the heart cannot be transplanted, it can be recovered for valves. These valves are used in children with congenital heart defects. Saphenous veins from the leg can be used for dialysis access in dialysis patients.

One of the most common myths about organ and tissue donation is that one cannot have an open casket viewing. However, the donor is treated with the utmost respect and reconstructed so there is no difference in appearance so an open casket is possible.
There is also no cost to the donor family for any cost related to donation.

“You have the power to donate life. Be an organ, eye, & tissue donor.” You can register your decision at www.donatelifetexas.org and to hear stories of hope from tissue donation go to www.communitytissue.org/miracles/recipients

- Amanda Williams, transplant coordinator

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