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Blood Platelet Donation

Alternative name: Platelet Apheresis ('plate-let ay-fer-'ee-sis)

What are blood platelets?

Blood platelets are irregularly-shaped, colorless bodies that are present in blood. Their sticky surface lets them, along with other substances, form clots to stop bleeding. When bleeding from a wound suddenly occurs, the platelets gather at the wound and attempt to block the blood flow. The mineral calcium, vitamin K, and a protein called fibrinogen help the platelets form a clot. A clot begins to form when the blood is exposed to air. The platelets sense the presence of air and begin to break apart. They react with the protein fibrinogen to begin forming fibrin, which resembles tiny threads. The fibrin threads then begin to form a web-like mesh that traps the blood cells within it. This mesh of blood cells hardens as it dries, forming a clot, or a scab.

Who needs blood platelets?

  • Patients with clotting disorders, including those with liver disease, hemophilia, and other clotting factor deficiencies
  • Patients at DHMC who are undergoing surgery
  • Patients being treated for cancer—these patients often lose their ability to make platelets

What is the process for taking blood platelets?

A special procedure called apheresis (a-fer-EE-sis) is used. A needle is inserted into a vein in one of the donor's arms and whole blood is drawn into a sterile, closed machine. This machine rotates at a high speed separating whole blood into its different components. All but the needed component, in our case the platelets, are returned to the donor. These platelets are then made immediately available to the patient at DHMC.

Who can donate blood platelets?

The ideal candidate for blood plasma donation is a person who:

  • Is in good health
  • Is 17 years or older
  • Weighs at least 110 lbs
  • Has a red blood cell level of at least 38 percent

How often can blood platelets be donated?

Generally, a person may donate blood platelets as often as every 7 days.

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