It is estimated that each year well over a million allografts are implanted in the United States. These grafts are utilized in almost all surgical disciplines including: orthopedic, neurology, gynecology, cardiac surgery, burn care and many others. Over time physicians have realized the benefits of using allograft tissues over alternatives such as auto grafts and synthetics. This realization has tremendously increased the demand for allograft tissues. We have taken some of the questions most commonly asked by patients and answered them for you. We hope the following information is helpful when making a decision about undergoing an allograft transplant procedure.
Patients & Recipients
What is an allograft?
An allograft is tissue (i.e. bone, ligaments, heart valves) recovered from a human donor for transplantation into another person. Allografts have been successfully used in various medical procedures for more than 150 years. Allograft bone is commonly used in orthopedic, spinal and oral surgeries. Burn patients, cardiac patients, urologic patients, and oncology patients have also benefited from allograft transplantation (i.e. skin, tendons, heart valves, veins and corneal (eye) allografts).
Where do allografts come from?
Tissue donation is a gift given to improve quality of life for others. It is strictly voluntary. The donor or their family must consent to the donation. LifeLink Tissues are recovered from a human donor only in hospital operating room settings.
What are the benefits of allografts?
Allografts are a natural alternative to synthetic and metal implants. However, unlike those, allografts incorporate into your body. Allografts are frequently chosen as an alternative to autografts (tissue from your own body) to reduce surgical time, harvest site morbidity, and recovery time.
How safe are allografts?
Every precaution is taken throughout all tissue recovery and processing procedures to ensure the delivery of safe, high quality allografts. Extensive screening and laboratory testing is performed on tissues at the time of recovery and before their release for implantation.
How are allografts used in surgery?
Allografts are used in many surgical procedures including:
- Cervical, thoracic and lumbar fusion, and other spinal surgeries
- Hip and knee replacement
- Anterior and Posterior cruciate ligament (ACL/PCL) reconstruction
- Rotator cuff (shoulder) repair
- Orthopedic reconstruction due to cancer or trauma
- Surgical treatment for incontinence
- Heart valve replacement
- Ridge augmentation in dental procedures
- Skin grafting
How are allografts prepared?
Tissue is recovered only after family consent is obtained and a thorough medical/social history interview is completed. Donor medical records are reviewed to rule out the presence of infections, malignancies, autoimmune and certain neurological disorders and high-risk behaviors.
Comprehensive serologic testing is performed on each donor. In addition, numerous microbiologic cultures are performed and evaluated from tissue recovery through allograft packaging. All musculoskeletal tissue is recovered and processed under aseptic conditions from carefully screened donors.
Each type of allograft is shaped into its final form according to exacting specifications by trained technicians. As a final safety measure, 10% of each donor’s tissue is destructively tested for the presence of microorganisms. LifeLink processing methods include the revolutionary Allowash® method. As a result of these efforts, allografts are cleaner, safer and maintain their clinical effectiveness.
After processing, allografts are preserved by freezing or freeze-drying. They are inspected, then packaged. LifeLink’s Medical Director, a licensed physician with specific qualifications and experience in tissue banking, must approve each donor record before tissue is released for implantation.
Are there risks with allografts?
Allografts offer excellent benefits; however, there is a minimal risk for disease transmission. Allografts have been safely and successfully used for many years. Strict guidelines exist to ensure continued safety. LifeLink Tissue Bank has placed hundreds of thousands of allografts with no report of disease transmission. It is important that you discuss any questions or concerns with your physician before your surgery.