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Donating Platelets

What are Platelets?

Platelets are blood cells that help control bleeding. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets collect at the site of the injury and temporarily repair the tear. Platelets then activate substances in plasma which form a clot and allow the wound to heal.

What is Apheresis?

Apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) is a special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give specific blood components, such as platelets. During the apheresis procedure, all but the needed blood component are returned to the donor.

Why is Blood Separated?

Different patients need different types of blood components, depending on their illness or injury. After you donate whole blood, the unit is separated into platelets, red cells and plasma in our laboratory. We used to separate platelets but only two tablespoons of platelets were collected from a whole blood donation. Six whole blood donations must be separated and pooled to provide a single platelet transfusion. However, one apheresis donation provides enough platelets for one complete transfusion—that’s six times the amount collected from a whole blood donation.

Who Needs Platelets?

Many lifesaving medical treatments require platelet transfusions. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive.

Because platelets can be stored for only five days, the need for platelet donations is vast and continuous.

Platelet transfusions are needed each year by thousands of patients such as those undergoing heart surgeries, and organ and marrow transplants and for burn patients.

Who Can Be an Apheresis Donor?

If you meet the requirements for donating blood, you probably can give platelets. Depending on your platelet count, apheresis donors can donate up to once every two weeks. Apheresis donors must:

  • be at least 17-years-old
  • be in good health
  • weigh at least 110 pounds
  • not have taken aspirin or medication containing aspirin 48 hours prior to donatiing

Are Apheresis Donations Safe?

Yes. Each donation is closely supervised throughout the procedure by trained staff. Only a small percentage of your platelets are collected, so there are no risks of bleeding problems. Your body will replace the donated platelets within 48 hours. The donation equipment (needle, tubing and collection bags) is sterile and is discarded after every donation, making it virtually impossible to contract a disease from the process.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Blood is drawn from your arm through sterile tubing into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood to separate the components, which vary in weight and density. A port is opened along the spinning tubing at the level containing platelets. These platelets are drawn up into a collection bag, while the remaining blood components (red cells and plasma) are returned to you.

How Long Does it Take?

Depending on your weight and height, the actual apheresis donation process will take approximately 70 minutes to two hours. You may watch television or videotapes or dvds, listen to music, surf the Internet, or simply sit back and relax while helping to save lives.

How Can I Become an Apheresis Donor?

Simply call our BCP apheresis coordinators at 1-800-707-8483 for more information or to make an appointment.

Our coordinators are in the call center:
Monday through Thursday from 9am to 8:30pm;
Friday & Saturday from 9am to 3:00pm; and
Sunday from 2:30pm to 8:30pm.

We look forward to hearing from you!

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