The Big Difference Between Donating Blood And Donating Plasma

According to the American Red Cross, for the 328 million people currently living in the U.S., roughly 13.6 million units of whole blood are available via donation every year.

Donating blood continues to be a critical way to help patients who require surgery, transfusions following an accident, and for those undergoing intense cancer treatments. Blood transfusions are vital for cancer patients to get platelets back into the body, which can be destroyed due to intense chemotherapy and radiation treatments.

A whole blood donation encompasses all parts of the blood, which includes red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. However, not all donations will necessarily be whole blood donations. It is also possible to only donate platelets or plasma, each of which is collected in a specific way and serve the body differently.

Platelets are the part of the blood that help the body form clots, which are vital for people who are dealing with cancer, chronic diseases, or severe injuries. The American Red Cross emphasizes how plasma is pivotal in providing a vital assortment of proteins, salts, minerals, and vitamins to patients suffering from severe burns, cancer, and other critical conditions.

The process for donating plasma and platelets

Whether donating plasma or platelets, both involve a process called apheresis. According to theĀ Mayo Clinic, apheresis is a technology that requires the donor to be hooked up to a special kind of machine that separates the various blood components, and then returns the unused components back to the donor. It is also a process that allows people to donate more often compared to a whole blood donation because the body can replace plasma and platelets quickly.

Plateletpheresis is the term used for platelet donation. Mayo Clinic experts state that a donor must meet all the requirements for whole blood donation in order to be eligible to donate platelets. Experts also state it is safe to donate platelets once every eight days and up to 24 times in a year.

During plasma donation, or plasmapheresis, it's the liquid portion of the blood that is collected. Those with type AB blood are typically in great demand for plasma donation, as type AB is the universal plasma donor and can, therefore, be given to anyone with any blood type.

The American Red Cross estimates that the need for blood is constant and that someone in the U.S. needs blood every two seconds. However, only 3% of those who are eligible are donating blood, and a greater supply is needed to meet ongoing demand.