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Donation Basics

The process of organ donation can save as many as eight lives through the surgical transplantation of organs from a donor to recipients. Most often donors are deceased, but some organs can be donated by living donors.

  • Deceased donors can provide the following organs: kidneys, pancreas, liver, lungs, heart, and intestines, which can be used to save the lives of as many as 8 people.
  • Deceased donors also can provide tissues (such as bones, skin, heart valves and veins) and corneas.
  • Living donors can provide a kidney or a portion of the liver, lung or intestine and, in some instances, eyes and tissues.

Eye and Cornea Donation:

By registering to be a donor, you can transform the lives of dozens of people-including giving the gift of sight.

  • Eyes can help restore sight to people with cornea problems (the clear part of the eye). Damage can be caused by eye disease or injury, or defects from birth. The white part of the eye (the sclera) can be used in operations to rebuild the eye.
  • A corneal transplant involves replacing a diseased or scarred cornea with a new one. Since 1961, more than 1,000,000 men, women, and children ranging in age from nine days to 100+ years, have had their sight restored.
  • Over 95 percent of all corneal transplant operations successfully restore the corneal recipient's vision.
  • With corneal tissue, everyone is a universal donor. Your blood type does not have to match. It doesn't matter how old you are, what color your eyes are or how good your eyesight is. Aside from those suffering from infections or a few highly communicable diseases such as HIV or hepatitis, most people are suitable donors.
  • Eye banks are non-profit organizations that obtain, medically evaluate and distribute eyes donated by caring individuals for use in corneal transplantation, research, and education. U.S. eye banks provide tissue for an average of over 59,000 corneal transplants a year. (Source: Eye Bank Association of America.)

Tissue Donation:

Donated tissues such as skin, bone and heart valves can save and dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients. One tissue donor can enhance the lives of more than 50 people.

  • Many kinds of tissues can be donated after death
    • 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 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. Bone is also used in some dental procedures, often to help rebuild.
    • Tendons, the elastic-like cords that attach bones and muscles to each other can be donated to help rebuild damaged joints to help people move more easily.
  • Most deceased persons can be tissue donors. For tissue to be donated, the local tissue bank (a tissue recovery organization), will receive a referral from a hospital, medical examiner or funeral home notifying them that an individual has died.
  • An initial determination of donor eligibility is made using basic criteria and available information (age, cause of death, immediate evidence of infection, and other clinical factors). If the deceased individual is a candidate for donation, the state donor registry is searched in order to determine donor designation status. One or more persons who know the potential donor are contacted for a medical and social history.
  • If the potential donor has not previously provided donor authorization on a state donor registry, his or her legally authorized representative (usually a spouse, relative or close friend) is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation.
  • Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of death. Unlike organs, tissue can be processed and stored for an extended period of time for use in severe burn treatment, ligament repair, bone replacement, and other reconstructive procedures.
  • Each year, lifesaving and life-enhancing tissue is provided by approximately 30,000 donors.

Whole Body Donation

In addition to registering as an organ, eye, and tissue donor. You can register for whole body donation.

Learn About Whole Body Donation

Living Donation

Many people want to help by being a living donor but don't know how. Learn more about how living donation works.

Learn About Living Donation

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