Since 1999, Dakota Lions Sight & Health has helped enable the restoration of health through recovery of non-ocular tissue for transplant. Non-ocular tissues include heart valves, skin, bone, tendons and ligaments, cartilage, and vascular tissues.
About Tissue Donation
Many people are aware of corneal donation and organ donation, but what you may not know is that more than 1 million tissue transplants are performed and the need for tissue has been steadily rising. From skin grafts to help burn victims to tendon replacement to repair injuries, non-ocular tissue transplants take many forms.
Unlike organ donation, tissue donation does not involve blood cells and does not require matching with the recipient. As such, donated tissue has a longer window for transplant than organs and corneas and it can be stored for a lengthy period of time. Additionally, unlike organs or corneas, non-ocular tissue can be sterilized to further ensure safety to the recipients.
In contrast to eye donation, Dakota Lions Sight & Health does not provide non-ocular tissue directly to the transplanting surgeons. We screen, recover, and then package and ship the donated tissues to organizations known as tissue processors. Those organizations process the donated tissue into usable grafts that are then distributed to surgeons throughout the world.
At Dakota Lions Sight & Health, we carefully consider relationships with all of our external partners – to include our tissue processors. All of our partners are registered with the FDA and are nationally accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). The methods used to process tissue are in compliance with the FDA and AATB.
The Donation Process
When a death occurs, the hospital or other medical facility makes a telephone call to an organ procurement organization (OPO). These organizations are federally-designated to serve geographic areas of the country. In our service area, LifeSource, based in Minneapolis, MN, is the OPO. When the OPO receives a call, they relay the information to the eye and/or tissue bank. Both organizations work together to share information quickly and to ensure donation wishes are fulfilled.
Once the OPO has passed the information to Dakota Lions Sight & Health, our Donation Coordinators obtains consent from the donor family, reviews initial medical information, conducts a medical history interview with the donor family, and dispatches our recovery technicians.
Non-ocular tissue generally must be recovered within 12-24 hours of death, depending on circumstances. Dakota Lions Sight & Health has technicians who are on-call 24/7 and are ready at a moment’s notice to perform the recovery procedures.
The tissues are surgically removed from the donor and are immediately aseptically packaged and placed into validated shipping containers with wet ice. The tissues are then immediately shipped to the tissue processors. A blood sample is also obtained and sent to a testing laboratory where it is tested for infectious diseases such as HIV, Hepatitis B, and other diseases which pose a risk to the recipient.
Upon receipt of the tissue, the processors evaluate the tissue and process into specific grafts, depending on surgeon need. The preparation and sterilization of the grafts are unique and proprietary to each processor. The processor’s medical director or designee reviews the donor’s medical records, all testing results, and tissue evaluation results, and makes a final eligibility determination.
Once released for transplant, the non-ocular tissue grafts are distributed throughout the processor’s distribution network. All of our processors distribute both nationally and internationally.