Platelet, double red cell and plasma donations

Blood contains several components, including red cells, platelets and plasma. You may choose to give whole blood donations, platelets, double red cells or plasma donations. During a whole blood donation, you typically donate a pint (about a half liter) of whole blood. During a process called apheresis, you're hooked up to a machine that collects and separates blood components and returns unused components to you.

Platelet, double red cell and plasma donations

Platelet, double red cell and plasma donations are each a type of apheresis — a method of collecting blood in which you're hooked up to a machine that collects and separates blood components (red cells, platelets and plasma) and returns unused components to you. Your blood stays confined within a single-use sterile tubing kit, so you're not at risk of getting a bloodborne infection during a blood donation.

Apheresis collection of plasma and platelets allows you to donate more frequently than does whole blood donation because the body replaces platelets and plasma more quickly than red cells.

Apheresis blood donations take about 1 1/2-2 hours.

Platelet donation (plateletpheresis)

During plateletpheresis, only platelets are collected. Platelets help blood to clot and are commonly given to people with cancer or people having major surgery.

To donate platelets, you must meet all of the requirements for whole blood donation, and also:

  • Have donated whole blood at Mayo Clinic or double red cells, plasma or platelets elsewhere
  • Have not taken aspirin or any aspirin-containing medicine for 48 hours

You may donate platelets as often as once every eight days, and up to 24 times in a 12-month period.

Donated platelets can only be stored for use for as long as five days.

Plasma donation (plasmapheresis)

During plasmapheresis, only the liquid portion of the blood (plasma) is collected. Plasma is commonly given to people in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding.

To donate blood plasma, you must meet all of the requirements for whole blood donation. There are four major blood groups: A, B, AB and O. Donors who are blood group AB are special plasma donors because their plasma can be given to any of the other blood types. Because of this, AB plasma is frequently in high demand.

You may donate plasma as often as every 28 days.

Double red cell donation

During double red cell donation, two units of red cells are collected. Red cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Red cells are typically given to people with sickle cell anemia or significant blood loss due to trauma or surgery. A red cell donation is typically transfused within days, so the need for this component is ongoing.

You may donate double red cells about once every 168 days (24 weeks). During this time, you cannot make other types of blood donations. Your body replaces the lost red cells in about 90 days.