Tissue Donation

Donated tissues such as skin, bone, and heart valves can dramatically improve the quality of life for recipients, and help save lives. 


One tissue donor can restore health and heal the lives of more than 75 people.


Approximately 2.5 million tissue transplants are performed each year.

When is tissue donation needed?

Donated human tissues can be used in many surgical applications, saving and healing lives on a daily basis. Tissue donation can benefit patients in a number of serious or life-threatening medical situations, including saving patients with severe burns, allowing athletes with torn ligaments or tendons to heal and regain strength, restoring hope and mobility to military men and women who have been injured in combat, and repairing musculoskeletal structures such as teeth, skin, and spinal components. Each year, approximately 58,000 tissue donors provide lifesaving and healing tissue for transplant. Approximately 2.5 million tissue transplants are performed each year. Donate Life America partners with organizations such as the American Association of Tissue Banks to encourage and educate about tissue donation across the country.

How does the tissue donation process work?

Accredited tissue recovery organizations receive referrals when someone has died. An initial determination of tissue donor eligibility is based on a medical evaluation and available social and family information (i.e., age, cause of death, immediate evidence of infection, etc.). If it is determined that the person is a candidate for tissue donation, donation professionals will search the local state donor registry and the National Donate Life Registry to see if the individual has registered his or her donation decision. If the potential donor’s registration is not found in the registries, the legal next of kin is offered the opportunity to authorize the donation. Tissue donation must be initiated within 24 hours of a person’s death. Unlike organs, donated tissues can be processed and stored for an extended period of time. Donated tissues can be used in burn cases, ligament repair, bone replacement, and to help with other serious medical situations. Most people can be potential tissue donors at the time of death. Tissue transplant procedures vary depending on the type of tissue being donated — recipients prepare for a cornea transplant and a heart valve surgery differently. If you or a loved one is undergoing a tissue transplant, your doctor will communicate the steps of the procedure and risks associated with your particular surgery.

What tissues can be donated?

There are many different types of tissues that can be donated and used to save lives. These tissues include: corneas (used to restore sight); tendons (used to rebuild joints); heart valves (used to repair cardiac defects); veins (used to re-establish circulation); skin (used to heal burn patients); bones (used to prevent the need for amputation); and birth tissue (used in reconstructive procedures to promote healing, and to treat burns and painful wounds).

How can my donated tissue help?

Thousands of people die each year waiting for organ transplants, and many more face long waits and poor medical alternatives for lack of a tissue transplant. Tissue donation helps end needless suffering, and saves lives.

More About Tissue Donation

Although there have been advances in medical technology, the demand for organ, eye and tissue donation still vastly exceeds the number of donors. Donate Life America is working to increase the number of registered organ donors and develop a culture where organ donation is embraced as a fundamental human responsibility.

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