It seems sort of a waste to not do something with that excess skin from your waist if you want to have surgery to remove it. In 2007, Dr. Beverly Shafer must have thought the same thing when she asked her patient Nina Esile if she would be willing to donate the excess skin from her tummy tuck to the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation (MTF). The New Jersey tissue bank is the only living skin donor program in the U.S.
Traditionally, skin donation has come from donors who are deceased. The skin used is extremely thin, thinner than a piece of Kleenex, and is used to treat burn patients. However in recent years, doctors have begun performing more complex surgeries that require larger and thicker amounts of skin. Researchers have developed newer techniques to be able to use skin from live skin donors to fill this need. These larger pieces of skin can be used for breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, for abdominal wall covering after a hernia repair as well as filling any larger gaps that have created deformities elsewhere in the body.
According to Martha Anderson of the MTF as reported to Boston.com, "Recipients do not have to take antirejection drugs for living skin or deceased skin, because we have taken the cells out," Anderson said. "We don't have to do blood-type matching, either -- none of the matching you have to do with organs."
The technique for handling and treating donor skin has continued to be perfected so that unwanted fat and other cells are removed before the skin is stored and frozen for donation. There is no charge for donating live skin and the National Organ Transplant Act prohibits selling or buying any donor tissue.
According to Cindy Gordon of MTF, currently, there are only 70 surgeons who are working with MTF on the program but the need for live donor skin has grown tremendously over that last few years. As of 2007, there were over 300 live skin donations performed but the number has risen to over 1,600 in 2009.
If you or someone you know is interested in donating their unwanted excess skin, contact the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation at mtf.org/donor/living_skin.html.