Blood Platelet Donation

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.

I have been donating platelets and plasma every four weeks for over two years. My father has a rare blood disorder and needs many transfusions throughout the year. Without blood donors, he would not be alive today. Thus, donating is very important to me. I feel that it is one way I can help other people as others have such an impact in my families' lives.

Platelet/plasma donor

Who needs blood platelets?

  • Patients with clotting disorders, including those with liver disease, hemophilia, and other clotting factor deficiencies
  • Patients at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (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?

The process of taking blood platelets is also called platelet apheresis (plate-let ay-fer-EE-sis). In this process, 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.

I was a past donor when the Red Cross had an office in Lebanon. I was asked if I would continue at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. I have been a platelet donor for a very long time and have given 'special donations' for those in critical need. I would never hesitate to assist someone to prolong their life. Also, I've signed up to be an organ donor.

Platelet donor

Who can donate blood platelets?

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

  • Is in good health
  • Is 17 years or older
  • Weighs at least 110 lbs
  • Has a platelet count of 200 or higher

How often can blood platelets be donated?

Platelets can be donated as often as every seven days, but our program encourages waiting two weeks between platelet donations.