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What Is Autologous Tissue?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Autologous tissue comes from a patient’s own body. It can be used in medical treatments for a variety of conditions and has some advantages over the available alternatives. When the donor is the patient, the risk of rejection is radically reduced, because the patient’s immune system will recognize the tissue. Concerns about infection and contamination are also reduced, because these would already be present in the patient’s body.

One example of a situation where autologous donation can be used is breast reconstruction, where a flap of tissue from the chest or elsewhere in the body can be used to rebuild the breast. Patients can also donate materials like tendons for reconstructive surgeries, stem cells for transplant, and blood for infusion after surgeries and other procedures. If autologous tissue is an option for treating a given medical condition, it may be recommended because patients don’t have to wait for donor tissue to arrive and it can be safer.

Self-directed blood banking is offered as an option at many medical facilities where surgeries are performed, particularly for a patient with a rare blood type. Before the patient’s surgery, blood can be banked for use in the procedure. This can ensure availability of the right blood type, although additional units may be required if there is a crisis in surgery. These can be obtained through a blood bank if necessary.

Stem cell transplants can also be used in therapy. Patients with some blood cancers may undergo a procedure to extract stem cells from the marrow before chemotherapy. The cells can be treated and re-infused after chemotherapy, allowing the autologous tissue to start propagating and producing a new supply of blood. For orthopedic procedures, an autologous transplant may involve parts of bone or tendon to help a surgeon reconstruct a joint or injured limb.

The collection of autologous tissue may take place in the same surgery as the procedure where it will be used. For example, an orthopedic surgeon can cut into the leg to access a tendon, or a vascular surgeon might harvest a vein from the same site. Once the tissue is in hand, it can be immediately transplanted to the new location.

In other cases, the collection may take place before, or some preparation around the autologous tissue donation site may be required. Breast cancer patients, for instance, might use an inflatable balloon under the skin to slowly grow a flap of skin that can be harvested in surgery and used in a breast reconstruction. The balloon’s size is increased over time to allow the skin time to grow and stretch, creating a large sheet for the surgeon to work with.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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