Often more effective than artificial alternatives, bone and other musculoskeletal grafts can make reconstruction of orthopaedic defects more feasible and hasten the recovery time for many procedures. The use of these grafts is life transforming where patients limited in movement and unable to undertake tasks previously taken for granted (e.g. walking) regain full mobility and the freedom to return to active and normal lives.
The musculoskeletal tissue which can be donated include;
- bone including the femoral head (hip), tibia and femur (leg), humerus (upper arm), iliac crest (pelvis), hemi-pelvis and rib,
- tendons including the Achilles tendon (heel), patella tendon (front of knee) and anterior tibialis tendon (foot),
- and meniscus (fibrocartilage cushion in the knee joint).
Bone is the second most transplanted tissue in the world, second only to blood transfusions. It is mostly used in bone revision surgery to replace lost bone stock (where prosthetic implants have worn away the patient’s bone), operations where bones need to be fused to restore function or stop pain, or large bone replacements from major trauma or bone cancer resection.
Donated tendons and ligaments are used to replace torn or irreparably damaged ligaments, often through sports injuries (e.g. ruptured cruciate ligaments). Usually the recipient can return to normal active duties and many professional sports people have been able to return to their sport as a result of these implants.
Meniscal grafts are used to replace the damaged meniscus (the cushion within the knee joint) in the recipient and are most commonly used in patients who have previous injury (e.g. sport) or surgery, resulting in damage to their meniscal tissue. Meniscal transplants help restore normal anatomy and provide pain-free stability in the knee of the recipient, allowing the recipient to return to normal physical activity.
One notable ligament recipient is Olympic Gold Medallist, skiing champion Alisa Camplin. She refers to her donated tendon as ‘Angel’ and is eternally grateful to the donor and their family for their generosity at such a difficult and sad time.