Are you one of Western Australia’s 5800 potential life changers?
PlusLife, WA’s only bone and tissue bank, is encouraging patients about to undergo total hip replacement surgery to consider signing up as bone and tissue donors to help make life- changing differences to others.
This week is DonateLife Week 2021, Australia’s national awareness week to promote organ and tissue donation.
According to the Australian Orthopaedic Association National Joint Replacement Registry, around 50,000 hip replacement operations are conducted in Australia each year. In WA alone, 5852 hip surgeries were performed last year.
“Every one of these hip replacement patients could potentially be a living donor with the ability to drastically improve the lives of others,” PlusLife managing director Anne Cowie said.
“While screening procedures do preclude some people from making the donation, we encourage everyone who is about to have hip replacement surgery to speak to their surgeon about the possibility of making a donation to PlusLife.”
Through PlusLife’s two donor programs, patients having a hip replacement operation can donate the ball part of their hip, which is used commonly in a ground-up form for children with spinal deformities. And, like organ donation, bone, tendons and ligaments can be donated after death with consent from the deceased’s next-of-kin.
Grafts are used for patients undergoing life-transforming operations, such as complex joint surgery and treatments for patients with dental and facial bone loss. In many cases it has saved children with cancer the distress of a limb amputation.
Mrs Cowie said the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted heavily on the number of tissue donations PlusLife had received in the past year, but demand for allograft had risen.
“Our response to the pandemic and our precautionary decision to stop receiving tissue donations during the height of COVID last year meant that our stores of allograft diminished. At the same time, demand for our products has increased considerably.
“For this reason, we are appealing to community members to consider signing up as tissue donors this DonateLife Week and speak to your families about your donation wishes.”
Mrs Cowie said PlusLife had investigated new ways of sourcing donor tissue, including expanding operations into Bunbury and Busselton, in WA’s south-west, and engaging with interstate hospitals that do not currently have tissue donation programs.
She said many people did not realise the full impact of tissue donation, with one deceased tissue donor able to improve the wellbeing, sight and mobility of up to 60 people through the donations of bones, tendons, corneas, heart valves and skin.
“While organ donation has a high community profile, many people are not aware that tissue donation is actually possible, or that the decision to donate tissue and bone can transform a patient’s life,” Mrs Cowie said.
“Over the years, PlusLife has been the conduit to providing thousands of allograft donations that have meant recipients have seen incredible benefits to their lives.
“This includes life-changing spinal surgery that enables recipients to walk without pain, cancer patients who with a bone allograft can save a limb; and other inspiring stories like one young Perth girl who was able to resume her passion for dancing thanks to donor graft.”
Since its inception 28 years ago, PlusLife has provided more than 22,300 grafts that have helped more than 12,500 patients, many of whom are children with bone cancer and spinal deformities.
Last year alone, 672 bone and tissue donations were made to PlusLife.
Nationally, there were 3018 tissue donors, including 290 deceased donors who made 442 tissue donations in 2020, a decrease of 16% in the number of donations compared to 2019. The majority were femoral head donations from hip replacement operations.
But latest statistics show just 38% of West Australians are registered tissue and organ donors.
DonateLife Week starts today and runs until Sunday, August 1.
To register as a bone, tissue or organ donor, visit www.donorregister.gov.au or via Medicare online.