This animation provides a good introduction to organ and tissue donation for transplantation in Australia. It is designed for use in community education activities to support all Australians to discover, decide and discuss organ and tissue donation. It was produced by the Organ and Tissue Authority.
Isn’t my bone too old or worn out to be of any use?
No, age is not a barrier to donation for those having hip replacement surgery. Wear and tear damage to your joint from osteoarthritis usually only affects the surfaces of your joint and not the bone underneath – that is usually very healthy.
If I’m going to have a knee replacement in the future can I donate bone?
As the knee is a different type of joint, at present we do not collect bone from this type of surgery.
Will the process of my surgery be affected if I decide to donate and will you take more of my bone because I’m donating?
Your surgeon will perform your hip replacement in exactly the same way whether you donate bone or not and we definitely do not ask your surgeon to collect extra bone because you are donating.
Do I need to check with my surgeon before agreeing to donate?
Orthopaedic surgeons are generally very supportive of bone donation, and as the process of donation does not impact on the way they perform your surgery, it is not essential for you to inform them of your intention to donate. However, you are very welcome to discuss the subject with them.
What sort of questions will be asked about the donor’s history?
In order to eliminate the likelihood of transmission of infectious diseases, a thorough examination of the medical and social history is conducted. In some instances, the GP may be contacted to clarify some medical history details.
What happens to all the personal and health information you collect about me?
All the information you provide us with is held in the strictest confidence. There are instances when we need to obtain further information about you from your GP or to follow up on test results from laboratories of medical facilities. Information collected by PlusLife may only be disclosed to your GP, your surgeon and testing laboratories. We do not disclose your information to other agencies.
How much will it cost me?
There is no cost associated with donating bone and tissue, nor is any payment made to the donor or donor family.
How is PlusLife funded?
Trading in human tissue is illegal in Australia, however, a 'fee for service' approved by the government is recoverable each time graft is implanted.
These graft fees support PlusLife's operational expenses, but we also rely on the generosity of the Western Australian community to support our organisation.
How will my bone & tissue be used?
Donated bone is very valuable for use for patients who may require a bone graft e.g. for bone tumours, spinal surgery, hip revisions and a variety of general orthopaedic procedures. Bone graft can be used in many ways to aid patients who have bone defects. Use of tissue grafts such as tendons and ligaments are also common. It is not necessary for the donor and recipient to be tissue matched as for the transplant of organs. However, it is helpful if we know the Rhesus factor of the donor. Bone grafts are often used in conjunction with prosthetic implants such as hip prostheses, plates & screws. Once implanted into the recipient, the bone graft does not grow, but can encourage the recipient’s own bone to grow into the graft to repair areas of lost bone.
How is the bone & tissue retrieved after death?
At all times, the body of the deceased is handled with care and respect. Each bone and tissue is carefully removed and packaged by trained surgical staff. Using prosthetic implants, the limbs are reconstructed to restore alignment, and all wounds are carefully sutured as for any surgical procedure. It is possible for the family to view the body following the retrieval should they wish.
What happens after the bone & tissue has been retrieved?
A variety of laboratory specimens are collected for routine testing, including blood, swabs and bone chips. These specimens are sent to a licensed laboratory for examination. Tests are undertaken for a wide range of viral diseases, including: Syphilis: Hepatitis B & C: HIV (AIDS). The swabs and chips are cultured to ensure that there has been no contamination of the donated bone & tissue during the collection process. A bone chip is also sent for examination by a Pathologist. The retrieved bone and tissue is placed in a -70°C freezer whilst awaiting clearance. Upon clearance, the bone & tissue may then be used for transplantation, or further processed to produce special types of grafts. Processing involves removing soft tissue from the bone, then segmenting and packaging into individual graft items to optimise the donation, and to reduce wastage of this precious tissue. Graft material may be stored for up to 5 years awaiting transplant.
What if the donated bone and/or tissue is not suitable for transplantation?
The focus of donor programs is to provide much needed tissue for transplantation. Research is a very important aspect of the work of PlusLife, to assist in the development of new processing techniques and graft material. In some instances donated tissue is not suitable for transplantation. The Donor Coordinator will discuss this eventuality with the next of kin at the time of approaching them for donation consent. With the consent of the next of kin, this tissue may be used for ethically approved research purposes. Should you or your family not agree to research, any tissue not suitable for transplantation will be destroyed.
How do I register as a bone, tissue and organ donor?
You can register online, or update your existing Australian Organ Donor Register (AODR) record, via your myGov Medicare online account - or download the Express Plus Medicare mobile app - no paperwork needed!
You can also register online or download a registration form at donorregister.gov.au
If you have previously register your donation decision when applying for or renewing a drivers licence, you need to join the AODR to make sure you have a current record of your decision (only people in South Australia can register on the AODR via their drivers licence).