Donate Blood

Automated Donations

Automated blood collection, or apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis), is a donation made with the assistance of a special machine. Instead of flowing directly into a bag, your blood enters the machine where a small centrifuge "spins" the blood to separate its basic components. The machine is programmed to remove specific amounts of these components, and then return everything else to you through the same sterile tubing and needle.

Why is Blood Separated?

Different patients need different blood components, depending on their illness or injury. We separate each blood donation into its basic components of red cells, platelets and plasma. Whole blood donations are separated in our laboratory. Apheresis donations are separated automatically during the donation process.

 

NON-AUTOMATED    AUTOMATED
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Whole Blood
   Icon _doublereds
Double Reds
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Platelets
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Plasma

 

Whole Blood Donation

A non-automated "whole blood" donation is the most common type of donation and results mainly in the collection of red blood cells. Red blood cells are the most frequently used blood component and are needed by almost every type of patient requiring transfusion. Red cells make up about 40 percent of your blood. Their most important job is carrying oxygen from the lungs to tissues, and carrying back carbon dioxide to the lungs.

 

Double Reds

If you meet certain criteria, you can make a "double red" donation during one appointment using the automated donation process. It allows you to donate two units - twice the number of red blood cells - compared to a single unit from a non-automated donation. It is as safe as whole blood donation.

Can I Donate Double Reds?

In addition to the qualifications for a whole blood donation, you must also meet specific criteria for donating double red cells, especially for hemoglobin, weight and height.

Double red cell donation takes about 20-30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation. After a whole blood you are generally eligible to donate again in two months. After a double red donation you must wait four months. 

You may feel better after a double red donation. That's because other components, including the liquid portion of your blood, are returned to you. As a result, you may feel more hydrated after your donation.

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Platelets are blood cells that help control bleeding. They are one of the main components separated from a blood donation by automation.

  • When a blood vessel is damaged platelets collect at the site of the injury and temporarily repair the tear.
  • Platelets are sticky cells that clump together to form clots that control bleeding by sticking to the lining of
    blood vessels.
  • Platelets then activate substances in plasma which form a clot and allow the wound to heal.
  • When exposed to air, cause a protein in the blood, called fibrinogen, to turn into long threads which form a scab over the wound.
  • Platelets survive in the circulatory system for about 10 days and are removed by the spleen.
  • Outside the body, platelets can be stored for only 5 days.

Who Needs Platelets?

Many lifesaving medical treatments require platelet transfusions.

  • They are in high demand for patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer and blood disorders.
  • They help patients with malignant diseases who have low or abnormal platelets due to the disease itself or chemotherapy.
  • They are vital for patients receiving bone marrow or organ transplants and open heart surgery.
  • Necessary for treatment of accident, burn and trauma victims.

Because platelets can be stored for only five days the need for platelet donations is vast and continuous.

Platelet transfusions are needed each year by thousands of patients like these:

  • Heart Surgery Patient: 6 units.
  • Burn Patient: 20 units.
  • Organ Transplant Patient: 30 units.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant Patient: 120 units.

 

Plasma

What is Plasma?

Plasma is the fluid component of the blood that carries other blood cells, nutrients, and clotting factors throughout our bodies.

  • Plasma is 90 percent water and makes up more than half of total blood volume.
  • The remaining 10 percent of plasma is made up of protein molecules, including enzymes, clotting agents, immune system components, plus other body essentials such as vitamins and hormones.
  • Plasma helps maintain blood pressure and keeps everything moving through the circulatory system, supplying critical proteins and serving as an exchange system for vital minerals.
  • Plasma is frozen after collection and can be stored up to one year.

Who Needs Plasma?

  • Automated plasma donations provide life-saving transfusions to patients suffering from burns, traumas and bleeding disorders.
  • Plasma is used to treat bleeding disorders when clotting factors are missing. Plasma exchanges remove disease-causing factors from a patient's plasma.
  • Plasma is also used to extract cryoprecipitate, a substance rich in Factor VIII, which is needed to treat hemophilia patients.
  • Plasma purchased at for-profit centers is sold for research and some medical therapies.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Who Can be an Automated Donor?

If you meet the requirements for donating blood, you probably can give platelets. Apheresis donors must:

  • Be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent).
  • Be in good health.
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds.
  • Not have taken aspirin or products containing aspirin 48 hours prior to a platelet donation.

Are Automated Donations Safe?

Yes. Each donation is closely supervised throughout the procedure by trained staff. A small percentage of your platelets or plasma is collected, so there is no risk of bleeding problems. Your body will replace the donated platelets within 24 hours and donated plasma within two to three days. The donation equipment (including the needle, tubing and collection bags) is sterile and discarded after every donation, making it virtually impossible to contract a disease from the process.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Blood is drawn from your arm through sterile tubing into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood to separate the components, which vary in weight and density. A port is opened along the spinning tubing at the level containing either the platelets or plasma to be donated. These platelets or plasma are drawn up into a collection bag, while the remaining blood components (red cells and plasma or platelets) are returned to you.

How Long Does it Take?

Depending on your weight and height, the entire automated donation process will take approximately 70-90 minutes. You may read, watch videos, listen to music or simply sit back and relax while helping to save a life.

How Can I Become an Automated Donor?

Call Community Blood Center at 1-800-388-GIVE and ask for the Automated Collection Department.