updated 2/20/2006 3:09:41 PM ET 2006-02-20T20:09:41

A New Jersey company, Biomedical Tissue Services, is under investigation for allegedly selling cadaver parts for tissue donation that were obtained from potentially diseased or aged corpses. Hundreds of patients who had operations using tissue from that company have been offered medical testing. Here are answers to some common questions:

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Q: When were these body parts used in surgery?

A: Between early 2004 and September 2005.

Q: What type of tissue is involved?

A: Skin, bone and tendons.

Q: What kind of operations used these body parts?

A: Surgeries to repair aging spinal discs, bad fractures and dental implants are some common uses.

Q: If I’m at risk, will my doctor notify me?

A: The Food and Drug Administration is investigating and has advised doctors who implanted the suspect tissue to notify patients and offer them tests for AIDS, hepatitis and syphilis — diseases with the most likely potential of being transmitted through donated parts.

Q: If I received some of the suspect tissue, what are the chances I could get sick?

A: The FDA says chances are low, but unknown.

Q: How can we be sure most donated cadaver tissue is safe?

A: Experts say reputable tissue banks — where most tissue comes from — test donor specimens for numerous diseases and discard tainted tissue. Tissue and bone also are sterilized before being shipped to hospitals.

Q: What are my options if I don’t want to use donor body parts?

A: Sometimes you can use bone or skin from your own body, but those operations are often riskier, costlier, more painful and require longer recovery.

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