The Importance of Tissue Donation

Hospitals make a big difference in people’s lives through donor tissue.

Tissue used for surgery is collected by OPOs and distributed nationally, similar to the blood bank system. This process is regulated by the FDA.  More than 1.5 million surgeries are performed each year using donated tissue. Hospitals would not be able to perform many routine surgeries without cadaver tissue like bone, tendons, ligaments, skin, and heart valves. For example, in 2011, Allegheny General Hospital received 140 grafts from donors within CORE’s service area. 
Donor tissue can be used to relieve pain, restore mobility, and prevent limb amputation. Skin and heart valves are considered life-saving tissue. Skin is often transplanted to prevent severely burned patients from dying from infection and loss of plasma. Heart valves are transplanted to replace diseased or defective heart valves and improve heart function.

Relatively few of the patients that die in a hospital will be deemed suitable to donate solid organs because the circumstances that make it possible--neurologic or cardiac determination of death--are rare. But patients who die of any cause are potentially eligible for tissue donation.