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Platelet and Blood Donation FAQ

What are platelets?

Platelets are colorless cells that are needed for normal blood clotting in order to control bleeding.

Who needs platelets?

Patients with cancer and leukemia, transplant patients and patients with blood disorders all benefit from platelet products. Many types of cancer treatments destroy both cancer cells and healthy cells, so patients may need platelets to prevent bleeding.

How are platelets collected?

Platelets are collected by a process called apheresis (a-fa-ree-sis). In this type of blood donation, whole blood taken from a donor is separated into its individual parts. Then all but the needed component is returned to the donor. The needed component, such as platelets, is collected, tested and transfused into patients whose platelet count is very low.

How does platelet apheresis work?

A needle is placed into the donor’s left and right arms. One is called the withdrawal needle and the other is the return. Blood is drawn from the donor’s arm and sent through sterile tubing into a centrifuge located in a cell-separator machine. The machine spins the blood to separate the platelets from the other components. The platelets are collected and the remaining components are returned to the donor in the other arm. Only a small portion of the donor’s blood is in the machine at any time (less than a cup).

Why is the blood separated?

Whole blood is made up of several components, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Each component has a special use. Each unit of whole blood contains only two tablespoons of platelets. It would take six to 10 whole blood donations to supply enough platelets for one patient. However, one apheresis donation from a single donor can provide enough platelets for one or more transfusions.

Are platelet donations safe?

Yes. Each donation is closely supervised by trained and licensed employees who care for the donor throughout the process. It is impossible to get AIDS or any disease by donating platelets. The needle, tubing and collection bags in the machine are sterile and discarded after each donation. 

Platelets have a very short lifespan. Once collected, platelets are good for only five days. After your donation, your body replaces the platelets within 72 hours.

What can I do during the platelet donation process?

Each donor station is equipped with a TV and a DVD player. During the blood donation process, you are welcome to use a personal DVD you bring along, watch TV or a DVD from our collection. 

Who can donate platelets?

Requirements for platelet donors are similar to those for whole blood donations, with a few exceptions. You must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs. (at least 130 lbs. is preferred)
  • Be willing to give two hours of time per donation
  • Be healthy with no cold or flu symptoms
  • Wait three days after a whole blood donation or two weeks after apheresis

Donors should not take aspirin three days prior to giving blood. Ibuprofen and naproxene products, such as Motrin, Aleve and Advil are okay. If your doctor has asked you to take any of these medications on a daily basis, do not stop taking them in order to be a donor. 

For more information on donating blood or platelets, please call us at 714-456-5433.

Who can donate blood?

To donate blood, you must:

  • Be 17 years of age or older and weigh more than 110 pounds
  • Have a valid photo ID (driver’s license, passport, employee or student ID are acceptable)
  • Be in good health
  • Eat a healthy meal and drink plenty of fluids prior to donation
  • Finish all antibiotics prior to your donation and be symptom-free from any infection or illness

Why should I donate blood or platelets?

Donors donate for many reasons, but the most important reason is altruism. Your donation supports the care of another human being when they are at their most vulnerable state.

Although we may give out a T-shirt or some other small incentive to make things fun, our ultimate beneficiaries are our patients, not ourselves.

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