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Donating Platelets

Your platelet donation is safe, and it could save a life. Here's how the process works.

What are platelets?

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

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, in this case platelets, is collected, tested and transfused into patients whose platelet count is very low.

How does platelet apheresis work?

Needles are placed in both of the donor’s 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 6 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 patients.

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. Your blood stays within the tubes and collection bags during the process and no blood ever touches the machine. The needle, tubing and collection bags in the machine are sterile and discarded after each donation.

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 2 1/2 hours of time per donation
  • Be healthy with no cold or flu symptoms
  • Wait three days after a whole blood donation or one week after a platelet donation

Donors should not take aspirin three days prior to giving blood. Ibuprofen and naproxen products, such as Motrin, Aleve and Advil as well as Tylenol are okay as they do not contain aspirin. If your doctor has asked you to take aspirin or aspirin products on a daily basis, do not stop taking them in order to be a donor.

See more drug information for platelet donors

For more information on donating blood or platelets, please call us at 949-824-2662 (Irvine) or 714-456-5433 (Orange).

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