Blood is made up of four main components: red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma. Platelets help your blood to clot by forming a temporary plug in the wound that helps stop the bleeding.
A continuous supply of fresh platelets is essential to meet the needs of patients in area hospitals. Unlike whole blood, the shelf life of a unit of platelets is only five days, so platelet donors are needed on a consistent basis in order to keep a full supply.
A wide variety of patients need platelets. Children and adults with cancer use platelets, as well as people undergoing organ transplants, bone marrow transplants, and heart surgery. For example, patients with leukemia undergo chemotherapy to destroy the cancerous white cells, but this treatment also destroys their healthy cells, leaving the patient vulnerable to infection. In addition, these patients often do not produce enough platelets of their own, making them prone to spontaneous bleeding. A cancer patient can use one to three units of platelets per day while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment.
In a whole blood donation, blood flows straight from the donor’s arm into the collection bag. Then in the laboratory, the blood is separated into its components before being shipped to hospitals. However, platelets make up a relatively small percentage of a whole blood donation, so multiple donations of platelets must be pooled to make up a transfusible unit.
In a single-donor-platelet donation, blood drawn from the donor’s arm goes first to a cell separator machine. This type of automated technology is called apheresis (pronounced “a-fure-siss”). The platelets are separated and sent to a collection bag, and the remaining components are returned to the donor. Apheresis allows us to collect a larger, concentrated amount of a single blood component.
Apheresis is a closed, sterile system utilizing single-use disposable needles and plastic tubing. The donation takes about one to two hours.
The procedure for platelet apheresis donation is similar to a whole blood donation. However the donation takes about one to two hours. You may watch television or read a book during your donation.
It helps to eat a well-balanced meal beforehand, including iron-rich foods, but avoid consuming fatty foods and dairy products.
The general requirements for donating platelets are the same for whole blood. Additionally, you must wait 72 hours after taking aspirin or aspirin-containing medications.
Please speak to an Apheresis Supervisor about whether or not you qualify to donate platelets.
We offer platelet donations at six of our donor centers. Please call to make an appointment, or if you have further questions.