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About Skin Donation

Our skin is the largest human organ. It enables us to have our sense of touch, acts as a shield to protect us from heat and cold, and from environmental factors such as chemicals, ultraviolet radiation and bacteria.

Under normal conditions, our skin is able to mend itself from daily wear and tear. However, when skin gets too badly burnt or damaged, it is unable to repair itself without help. For patients with severe burn injuries, one way to promote healing is to cover the wound with donated skin.

Can skin be donated?

The Skin Bank recovers, prepares and preserves donated skin to be used for burns treatment. As with other organs, skin can be donated upon a person's death.

Using donated skin

In Singapore, the SGH Burns Centre treats approximately 200 patients each year. Most of them suffer from burn injuries due to industrial or domestic accidents. They include toddlers scalded by hot water at home and adults badly burnt by chemicals or flames. About 10% of these patients sustain major burns.

Donated skin is used as a temporary dressing for severe burns patients who do not have enough healthy skin on their body that the surgeon can use to graft onto their wounds. The donated skin helps relieve the patient's pain and discomfort, prevents risk of infection and minimises fluid loss.

Donated skin helps save lives. Without skin transplant, many severe burns patients could succumb to severe infection, leading to mortality.

How is skin recovered?

Skin is recovered from deceased donors. In order for the tissue to be useful, recovery is done within 15 hours from the time of death. The screening process for a potential donor includes reviewing of all donor medical records, physical examination and blood sampling for infectious diseases.

Using special instruments, only the outer skin is recovered. The thickness of the skin recovered is about 0.04cm, leaving approximately 85% of the donor's skin still intact.

The recovered skin pieces are processed, individually packed and specially stored at temperatures ranging from -70oC to -196oC, for up to 5 years.

Will any disfigurements occur as a result of the donation?

The donor's body is treated with utmost respect at all times. Skin is typically recovered from the deceased donor's back and lower limbs. 85% of the skin structure remains intact therefore disfigurement and bleeding are minimal. The family members of the deceased can also choose the areas in which the skin is recovered. After recovery, an open casket funeral remains as an option for the donor.

How do I sign up as a skin donor?

Be involved! Speak to your loved ones about skin donation. The identities of both the recipient and donor will not be revealed to either party and/or their next-of-kin. Share your wishes with your family, so that at the time of donation, they will know that they are acting according to your wishes.

Anyone above the age of 18 can make this life saving decision by completing an Organ Donation Pledge Form and submitting it to the National Organ Transplant Unit (NOTU). The form can be downloaded from www.liveon.sg.

Last Modified Date :30 Dec 2015