What is tissue donation?

The majority of those who join the NHS Organ Donor Register choose to donate all their organs. However, you can also choose to donate your tissues.

You can choose to donate tissue, such as skin, bone, tendons, eyes, heart valves and arteries after your death. Or, you can donate some tissue when you’re alive, for example bone that is removed during a hip replacement and amniotic membrane from your placenta after giving birth.

Tissue donation can improve the lives of many people through tissue grafts. Most people who are unable to donate their organs when they die can usually be tissue donors. This is because many of the restrictions that apply to organ donation do not apply to tissue donation.

About the tissues you can donate

Cornea

The cornea is used to help restore sight to people with cornea problems caused by eye disease, injury, or birth defects. Disease or injury can make the cornea cloudy or distorted, causing vision loss.

Heart valves

Heart valves can be transplanted to save the lives of children born with heart defects and adults with damaged heart valves.

Skin

Donated skin can be used as a natural dressing to help treat people with serious burns by stopping infections and to reduce scarring and reduce pain.

Bone

Donated bone can be used for people receiving artificial joint replacements. It can also replace bone that has been removed due to illness or injury and help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Tendons

Tendons attach bones and muscles to each other and donated tendons can be used to help rebuild damaged joints.

Living tissue

You may be able to donate bone, for example bone that is removed during a hip replacement, as a living donor. Mothers who have had their babies safely delivered by elective caesarean section in one of our partner hospitals may also be able to donate amniotic membrane.

Consent

We will only use tissue from a donor with their consent or with their family’s consent after they die. To become a tissue donor:

Everyone can join the NHS Organ Donor Register regardless of age, as long as they:

  • are legally capable of making the decision
  • live in the UK.

Further information