How Tissue Helps Others

Allografts have been used successfully in various medical procedures for more than 150 years. About 1.5 million allografts are transplanted each year in the United States.

An allograft is tissue taken from one person for transplantation into another. This can include bone, tendons, ligaments, skin & heart valves.

Second to blood, musculoskeletal tissue is the most commonly transplanted tissue. For millions of Americans, tissue transplants have relieved their pain, returned their mobility, preserved their limbs and prevented amputation. Donated corneas can restore the sight of someone suffering from blindness.

With nearly 2,500 tissue transplants per day performed at most hospitals across the United States, procedures using tissue are very common.

Allografts are a natural alternative to synthetic and metal implants. However, unlike synthetic or metal implants, allografts incorporate into the body. Another choice surgeons have is an autograft, which takes tissue from one part of the body for transplantation to another part. Using an allograft eliminates the need for a second surgery site – avoiding additional pain, risk and possible longer hospital stay.

Donated Human Tissue Possible Applications

Bone

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 during donation include the long bones from the arms and legs, as well as the hip bones.

  • Neurosurgery
  • Cervical and lumbar spinal fusion
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Periprosthetic fracture
  • Segmental bone loss treatment
  • Ankle fusion
  • Mid-foot fusion
  • High tibial osteotomy (HTO)
  • Demineralized bone matrix used as bone void fillers
  • Dental/oral maxillofacial procedures

Connective Tissue

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 or through arthritis or other diseases can benefit from restored mobility and can regain independence in daily activities.

Connective tissues are typically recovered from the joints in the leg and arm.

  • Joint reconstruction in the knee, ankle, hip
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Cruciate Ligament (MCL) and Lateral Cruciate Ligament (LCL) reconstruction
  • Ligamentous repair of the hand and foot
  • Elbow ligament repair
  • Cartilage restoration
  • Meniscal repair

Membrane Tissue

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.

  • Glaucoma repair
  • Dental procedures
  • Periodontal ridge augmentation
  • Soft tissue repair augmentation
  • Used as tendon to repair injury
  • Breast reconstruction following mastectomy
  • Hernia or other complex abdominal wall repair cases
  • Urological procedures, such as urinary slings for incontinence
  • Pelvic floor reconstruction

Cardiovascular Tissue

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