Ocular tissue (Cornea)
The cornea is the clear window of the eye – the window to the world around us. Neither age nor visual impairment affect the quality of the cornea. When the cornea is donated, the whole eyeball is removed by a trained DGFG coordinator. A glass prosthesis in the colour of the deceased’s eyes ensures that the donor’s appearance is respectfully restored. A removal is possible up to 72 hours after death.
Why cornea donation helps: Corneal transplantation may be the last treatment option to save the eyesight of patients. The success rate is very high and many patients regain full vision.
Heart valves and blood vessels (cardiovascular tissues)
Heart valves and blood vessels are donated either after cardiac death or within the framework of organ donations. A doctor may only remove valves if the heart is not suitable for organ transplantation due to a pre-existing condition – a possible heart transplantion always comes first.
Why donation of cardiovascular tissue helps: A typical application for cardiovascular grafts is the replacement of infected artificial prostheses. Transplantation is often an emergency operation that saves lives. In addition, heart valves are used to treat childhood heart valve defects. The need for about 500 transplants in Germany per year will continue to increase due to demographic changes.
Bones, cartilage, tendons, ligaments and skin (musculoskeletal tissue)
Bones and cartilage come both from living donors (e.g. femoral head after hip prosthesis) and from deceased persons. Specially trained staff remove the tubular bones of the extremities, the iliac crest, rib cartilage, but also entire joints. A high age does not exclude donation. Precisely fitting prostheses replace the removed tissue. Tendons, ligaments and skin can also be removed as part of postmortem tissue donation.
Why donation of musculoskeletal tissue helps: In orthopaedics and trauma surgery, severe bone defects caused by illness or accident can often only be cured by the precise use of bone grafts.
Amniotic membrane (Placenta)
The amniotic membrane is the thin, inner egg membrane of the maternal amniotic sac that surrounds the embryo. A Caesarean section birth and the consent of the mother after a comprehensive explanation are preconditions for the donation.
Why donation of amniotic membrane helps: The amniotic membrane is characterised by its special wound-healing and pain-reducing properties. Amnion transplants are mainly used for the treatment of superficial injuries of the conjunctiva and cornea of the eye, but also for the treatment of skin burns or the treatment of chronic wounds, such as diabetic foot.
In the pancreatic islets of Langerhans, beta cells produce the hormone insulin. Only if the pancreas cannot be transplanted as an organ, a tissue donation is allowed. The donations purpose then needs to be rededicated to tissue for the production and transplantation of islet cells.
Why donation of islet cells helps: If the function of the islets of Langerhans are disturbed, as in patients with diabetes mellitus type 1, life-threatening derailments of the blood sugar level may occur. In addition to transplantation of the entire pancreas, islet transplantation is the only available beta cell replacement therapy.