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Bone and Tissue Donation

Published on 14 October 2021

Some tissues, such as bone, can be donated by live donors. During a routine hip replacement operation the top part of the long bone in the thigh needs to be removed. If the patient agrees to donate the bone that needs to be removed, it can then be used to treat other patients, for example to correct spinal deformities in children or to treat complex bone fractures.

Other tissues, such as heart valves, tendons, corneas and skin, are donated after death, similar to organ donation. Many people can donate tissue after death. Unlike organ donation most tissues can be donated up to 24-48 hours after a person has died, so a person who may not be able to donate organs may still be able to donate tissue. A single tissue donor has the potential to improve the quality of life of several individuals through the use of their donated tissue, and some tissues are life saving;

  • Heart valves are used to treat young babies with congenital heart defects, and also adults with heart valve abnormalities. Heart valves can save patient lives.
  • Tendons are used to restore mobility and relieve pain in patients with damaged knee joints, usually following sporting accidents in otherwise young, fit adults.
  • Corneas can be transplanted into patients suffering from severe eye disease or injury that would lead to blindness.
  • Skin tissue can be life-saving when used to treat burns and traumatic skin injuries.

If you would like to help others after your death, please make your wishes known to your family and friends. You can join the NHS Organ Donor Register by calling 0300 123 23 23 or you can sign up online. Visit the Organ Donation Scotland website for more information.