During your pregnancy, the placenta and umbilical cord help keep your baby
healthy and developing. But did you know that after your baby is born,
this birth tissue could enhance someone else’s health and healing?
It’s true. For more than 100 years, the medical community has been
using the placenta to fight scarring, infection, and swelling. Now, a
special relationship between Cortland Regional Medical Center and the
Central New York Eye and Tissue Bank (CNYETB) is making it possible for
moms who are having a scheduled cesarean delivery to donate their placenta
and umbilical cord to help others see, recover from surgery faster, and
in the case of burn victims, grow new skin.
Why is birth tissue medically valuable?
“Birth tissue is a nearly perfect donor tissue because it can be
used universally. Due to its unique cellular makeup and the immunological
characteristics, as well as how the tissue is processed, amniotic grafts
do not have to be directly matched with a specific recipient,” said
Mark Kenville, Director of the CNYETB.
It’s the innermost layer of the placenta, called the
amnion that is of interest medically. This thin, tough sac protects the embryo
from injuries during pregnancy. The unique combination of collagens and
proteins in the amnion and the umbilical cord make them valuable after
birth. Eye doctors use this tissue to treat a wide range of eye injuries,
everything from ulcers and corneal abrasions to chemical burns and dry
eye. Amnion is also showing great promise for treating gum disease.
Placental tissue is considered one of the most effective biological skin
substitutes available, so it is particularly valuable in treating burn
victims. Burns are not only painful and scarring. Large burn areas leave
patients at risk of serious infection. The size of the placenta and the
tissue’s ready acceptance by the host are just two benefits it offers
for treating burns. When used with skin grafts, birth tissue helps fix
the graft to the wound bed, so patients heal faster and with less pain.
Birth tissue is very similar to the connective tissue that stabilizes,
separates, covers and protects just about everything in the human body
— bones, nerves, muscles, tendons, organs, the spine, and the brain.
One medical study showed that using birth tissue after surgery to repair
ankle tendons helped reduce post-operative adhesions and swelling. A growing
number of surgeons are using donated birth tissue in spinal surgery, while
other orthopedic specialists use it in an injectable form to treat chronic
How does Cortland Regional’s birth tissue donation program work?
The physicians, midwives, and nurses at Cortland Regional know about the
program, and there is information available for women who are having a
planned cesarean delivery. There are a couple of reasons why donations
are only accepted from cesarean deliveries. The first is to ensure the
most sterile tissue collection possible. The second is that a CNYETB technician
must be on hand at the time of the birth to collect the placenta.
Interested mothers are referred to the Eye and Tissue Bank, which then
conducts a donor risk assessment interview with the mom on the telephone.
CNYETB also contacts the donor’s physician, and on the delivery
date, a technician arrives at the hospital. The tech and Cortland Regional
nurses work together to complete pre-surgery procedures.
Cortland Regional averages four donations a month. Since each placenta
can enhance or save up to 100 lives, the hospital and generous moms have
impacted more than 7,000 lives!
“It’s a wonderful way for moms who’ve just experienced
one of life’s greatest miracles to share with someone else the miracle
of healing,” says Olga Levitskiy, nurse manager of Cortland Regional’s
maternity department. “It’s safe, it’s simple, and it
doesn’t cost the mother or her family a thing. What better way is
there to help heal someone else and to feel good about doing it?”
To learn more about Cortland Regional Medical Center’s placenta donation
program, call (607)-756-3750 or visit the Central New York Eye and Tissue
Bank’s website at