Skin used for some types of surgeries, such as treating burn victims, traditionally comes from deceased donors. However, skin from live patients is preferable for certain types of surgeries where thicker, larger pieces of skin are required, such as breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, or abdominal wall repair after a hernia operation.
The Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF) in New Jersey is currently the only living skin donor program in the United States. According to Cindy Gordon of the MTF, the need for live donor skin has grown considerably over the past several years. In 2007, there were only 300 live skin donations performed, but the number grew to more than 1,600 in 2009.
Unlike other types of organ donation, anti-rejection drugs and blood-type matching is not required for skin transplants. The techniques for handling donor skin have also been perfected so that unwanted fat and other cells are removed before the donated skin is frozen for storage.
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