Paucity of donors keeping AIIMS bone bank empty, say doctors
Even though globally, bone is the second most commonly transplanted tissue, after blood, not many Indians have come forward to pledge their bones.
And this is taking a serious toll on the country's only full-fledged bone bank at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
Since its inception in 1999, the bank has recorded just about 26 cadaver donations. Ironically, no cadaver donations have been done for last few months but in 2015 two more donations were done. Furthermore, in 2011 there was only one bone donation and in 2009 it recorded the bank stayed empty.
According to Dr. Rajesh Malhotra, professor of orthopedics at AIIMS, in the last five years, the bank has received just nine donations. Moreover, there has been not even a single donation in the last two years.
"Lack of awareness and religious taboos related sentiments is the major problems. Even after being set up in 1999, the first bone donation was not until 2001," said Dr. Rajesh Malhotra, the chief of AIIMS Trauma Centre and who had started the bank, said.
He also added that most of the people think that taking out bones will mutilate and disfigure the body and the limbs will dangle but it will not happen to the body.
Once the bones are taken out, the body is reconstructed and shape of the limbs is restored by putting wooden sticks and stuffing it up with cotton and wool. Even knee caps are made with cotton and wool.
"We take usually 10 minutes to take out bones from the body and spend the next 30 minutes on stitching up the body, so that, aesthetically it gave no change in body structure and it looks good, meanwhile, you can only figure out stitches only," explained Malhotra.
The donated bones can be used for various purposes like replacement of a lost segment of bone owing to cancer, infection or injury.
Also, it can be used to fill up cavities or holes left by major cancer surgeries, the doctor said.
"Bones from cadavers have to be retrieved within 12 hours. If a body is refrigerated, then the time frame extends up to 38 hours. They are then tested for HIV, hepatitis or any other infection," said Dr. Malhotra.
Also, through this procedure, the bones then stored at -70 degrees, after that these can be preserved for next five years, he added.
Only 35 percent receive the transplant every year out of thousands of cancer and trauma patients. But only one donor can be found in every 20 lakh people in our country.
"Bones can be donated by people even when they are alive. Suppose, a child has a deformity of the spine and undergoes a surgery to correct it, then, during this, the ribs which are taken out can be conserved and used in another person," he concluded.
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