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Donated Skin Grafting (Allograft)

Frequently asked questions

What is allograft?

Allograft skin is donated skin from deceased people

Why do I need allograft?

Allograft is commonly used in burn care to help your burns/wounds heal. It will provide a temporary cover to your burns, protecting your dermis and promoting healing.

It is used as a skin cover until auto grafting (own graft) is possible. It’s also sometimes used to protect auto grafts (sandwich technique)

Where does the skin come from?

Tissue is currently sourced from UK donors in compliance with rigorous ethical and clinical standards and supplied by NHS Blood and Transplant tissue services.

The consent process is approved by the Human Tissue Authority.

Are allografts safe?

Every tissue donor’s health and medical history is carefully checked to help rule out anyone who may pass on an infection.

Blood samples from tissue donors are tested for infection including Hepatitis B and C and HIV (virus that causes AIDS).

However, there’s always a small risk. Discuss this with your surgeon if you’re concerned.

How is the skin preserved?

Immediately following donation, it is decontaminated by antibiotic incubation, packaged and cryopreserved. It is then sterilised with gamma irradiation. The skin is donated in strips approximately 60mm wide and 0.3-0.5mm thick and packaged in individual packs containing approximately 120cm2-330cm2.

Once in hospital, it needs to be stored in a -80c freezer.

Who regulates the process?

The Human Tissue Authority. They inspect all hospitals with a licence to use allograft on a regular basis to ensure compliance with the process.

The Human Tissue Act is the law which governs consent for organ donation in England and Northern Ireland.

Will I reject the skin?

Skin does not behave in the same way than other organs. We do not expect donated skin to integrate with your own skin. However, there’s a small risk of this occurring. Discuss this with your surgeon if concerned.

Will the skin match my skin tone?

Allograft skin is usually under bandages so you will not be able to see it. However, sometimes it is left exposed on burns to the face.

A skin tone match cannot be offered or guaranteed as packets are not labelled with skin ethnic characteristics.

Can the donors be traced?

All donated skin is fully traceable. However, this information is not readily available. All donated skin packets have a unique barcode and donors can be traced in case of necessity.

Things to discuss with your doctor

Are alternative treatments available to me?

Some operations cannot be carried out without using a tissue transplant from another person, but it’s important to ask about alternative treatments.

Further reading

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