In 1996, a living donor tissue bank was established in Ireland and today the National Bone Bank spans 3 locations. The service is headquartered onsite at The National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh and has two satellite units located at the Mid-Western Regional Orthopaedic Hospital, Croom and our Lady’s Hospital, Navan. All locations hold a Tissue Establishment (TE) License issued by The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), and facilities are inspected biennially to ensure their continued compliance with Irish and EU legislation and standards in procedures, testing and practice.
At the National Bone Bank, we retrieve bone from consenting donor patients. The retrieved bone (the femoral head) is removed during hip replacement surgery and is no longer required by the donor. Patients having a hip replacement operation do so generally because the cartilage that covers the femoral head is damaged or eroded. Depleted cartilage can affect joint function, causing pain, affecting mobility and impeding daily life activity. During surgery the femoral head is typically discarded as clinical waste and replaced by an artificial device; however, the bone itself is usually in good condition and suitable for donation.
The retrieved bone, known as bone allograft, is very effective for the purpose of improving the quality of bone in other orthopaedic patients known as recipients. It is ideal for use in revision joint surgery (replacement of a previous hip/knee replacement), bone cancer, bone fracture and spinal surgery and can contribute to a better clinical outcome for the recipient.
The donor and donated bone are rigorously tested (as set out by Irish and EU legislation) to out-rule infection and infection risk before authorization for use. The Femoral Head bone (Allograft) is stored in the bone bank at ultracold temperatures until supplied to orthopaedic consultant surgeons on request.
The National Bone Bank is licensed to import Musculoskeletal allograft from a Tissue Bank in the USA. This allograft is not currently retrieved in Ireland. All products undergo comprehensive screening, packaging and storage processes to meet the quality requirements set out by Irish and EU legislation for use in the Republic of Ireland.
The National Orthopaedic Hospital Cappagh conducts in excess of 800 hip replacement surgeries each year, and the National Bone Bank is suitably located on-campus to harvest the femoral head during surgery.
A representative from the National Bone Bank team attends the Preoperative Assessment Clinic to discuss bone donation with patients before admission.
Patients who agree to donate bone are asked to complete and sign a medical questionnaire and consent form (specific to the retrieval of bone). Medical history and social risks are assessed, and a series of blood tests are conducted (HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and Syphilis) as required.
On the day of surgery, a member of staff from the Bone Bank attends the operating theatre to conduct femoral head harvesting. The bone is:
- Cleaned of organic matter
- Graded with evaluation of surface damage and quality of bone
- Packaged using sterile techniques
- Labelled as per EU regulations
- Stored at an average temperature of 80 °c degrees for up to 5 years or until used.
The National Bone Bank ensures the prudent use of allograft in surgical procedures, matching requests to suitable bone donations and providing comprehensive instructions for implantation. Allograft for dispatch is carefully packaged in temperature-controlled containers and delivered as requested to other hospitals by a specialist medical courier service.
The National Bone Bank is licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) to ensure compliance with Irish and EU legislation and standards in its procedures, testing and practices.
The National Bone Bank was first granted a Tissue Establishment Licence in 1996.
- Prof. J. Conor O’Keane, FRCPI., FFPath., RCPI – Head of Department
- Kenneth P O’Haire – Assistant Director of Nursing / National Bone Bank Co-Ordinator
- Eimear Hennessy – Clinical Nurse Specialist / National Bone Bank Co-Ordinator
- Avis Reynolds – National Bone Bank Office Clerk