Tissue donation

Tissue donation means giving your skin, bone or tendons to enhance the lives of others.

Tissue and bone donation

Donating tissue means we are able to repair and rebuild the bodies and lives of severely injured people. You can also donate your corneas. Some tissue parts can only be donated after death. Others can be donated from living donors, sometimes during routine surgery.

What tissues can I donate?

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.

Mothers who have had their babies safely delivered by elective caesarean section can donate amniotic membrane.

Most people choose to donate everything when they join the Organ Donor Register. However, you can choose which organs to donate and whether you want to include your tissue and corneas. Why not register as an organ and tissue donor today? The register is a permanent record of your wish to be a donor and can be updated at any time.

Can I be a tissue donor?

Almost anyone can be a tissue donor. There are very few eligibility restrictions and no age restrictions for bone, skin or eye donation.

To become a tissue donor after your death, please join the organ donor register and most importantly, let your friends and family know that if asked, you would like them to agree to you becoming a donor.

If you are interested in becoming a living tissue donor, we currently work with a limited number of hospitals on providing opportunities to donate bone and amniotic membrane (part of the placenta). Find out more about living tissue donation and whether your planned hip surgery or elective caesarean section could become an opportunity to donate.

Why do people need skin and bone transplants?

  • Heart valve donations save the lives of children born with heart defects and adults with damaged heart valves.
  • Skin donations are used as a natural dressing. Skin grafts help to treat people with serious burns by stopping infections, reducing scarring and pain.
  • Bone donation is important in providing replacement bone for people who have had bone removed due to illness or injury, reducing pain and improving mobility.
  • Tendon donations are used to attach bones and muscles to each other and can help rebuild damaged joints.
  • Eye donation means donating your corneas to help restore sight to people with problems caused by eye disease, injury, or birth defects. Find out more about eye donation.
  • Placenta donation means giving away the amniotic membrane (and you can donate the cord blood from your umbilical cord too) after an elective caesarean section. Donation doesn’t interfere with the safe delivery of your baby and is entirely voluntary. Find out more about donating your placenta.

If you want to donate your bone and tissue

Tell your friends and family that you want to be a tissue donor – it is very important that they understand and support your organ and tissue donation decision because your family’s support is needed for donation to go ahead. Dealing with the death of a loved one is a difficult time to make an important decision quickly.

Sign up to the Organ Donor Register online. The NHS Organ Donor Register is a secure database that records people’s decision around whether or not they want to be an organ and tissue donor when they die.

Call us on 0300 123 23 23.

If you would like to refer a potential tissue donor, please call the Tissues National Referral Centre on 0800 432 0559. 

Further information

Laura's amazing cornea transplant