What are platelets used for and who can they help?
Platelets are a component of blood that promotes clotting. They are named after their plate-like shape, and when activated, platelets develop sticky spikes that help them cluster together to seal off cuts and other wounds. Platelets are body’s natural bandages!
Platelets are incredibly important in a wide range of treatments for patients of all kinds, including premature babies, warriors fighting cancer, trauma victims, and those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants.
Who can donate platelets?
Donors of all blood types are encouraged to donate! Donors give platelets through a process called apheresis, which we explain in another section below.
Anyone who has ever been pregnant is encouraged to offer up their arm for a regular blood donation (called a ‘whole blood’ donation) and let staff know they’re interested in donating platelets. A small sample of blood will be taken for testing to see if they’re eligible. The reasoning behind this is that certain antibodies can develop during pregnancy that are harmful if transfused into certain patients. Unfortunately, these antibodies are present forever, so if a donor tests positive for them they will be unable to donate platelets. That being said, those donors are still eligible to donate other components!
How often can you donate platelets?
Platelets can be donated up to 24 times a year, and we usually ask donors to wait two weeks between appointments. The small percentage of platelets that you donate will be quickly replenished by your body.
What is apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis)?
The easiest way to define apheresis is taking one part of your blood and giving you back the rest. This is the process of giving platelets: blood is collected using a sophisticated machine where platelets are separated from the rest of your blood and the remaining components (such as plasma or red cells) are safely returned to you through the same arm.
How long does it take to donate platelets?
We reserve 2-hour appointments to ensure enough time for the entire process and you are encouraged to bring a book, watch a movie, or just sit back and relax. Remember: your donation will benefit a local patient within the week!
How to prepare for platelet donation
Just like donating blood, platelet donors will want to get a good night’s sleep on the night leading up to their donation. Unlike donating whole blood, you are required to avoid aspirin for 48 hours before donation, as it will affect the clotting properties of your platelets. We also recommend that donors drink fluids and have a full meal prior to your donation.
Stretching the stomach with a full meal opens the blood vessels around the stomach and constricts them in the rest of the body, resulting in an increased blood pressure. This helps you better tolerate a donation," said Dr. Lee Ann Weitekamp, Medical Director.
Am I eligible to donate platelets?
As long as you are 17-years-old and meet the minimum requirements for donating whole blood you may be able to donate platelets. Visit the whole blood donation eligibility requirements to learn more.