What is Automated Blood Donation?
Automated blood collection or apheresis (ay-fur-ee-sis) is a special kind of blood donation that allows a donor to give specific blood components, such as platelets or plasma. During the apheresis procedure, all but the needed blood components are returned to the donor.

Why is Blood Separated?
Different patients need different types of blood components, depending on their illness or injury. After you donate whole blood, the unit is separated into platelets, red cells, and plasma in our laboratory. Only two tablespoons of platelets are collected from a whole blood donation. Six whole blood donations must be separated and pooled to provide a single platelet transfusion. However, one (automated) donation provides enough platelets or plasma for one complete transfusion -- that's six times the amount collected from a whole blood donation.

What are Platelets?
Platelets are blood cells that help control bleeding. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets collect at the site of the injury and temporarily repair the tear. Platelets then activate substances in plasma which form a clot and allow the wound to heal.

Who Needs Platelets?
Many lifesaving medical treatments require platelet transfusions. Cancer patients, those receiving organ or bone marrow transplants, victims of traumatic injuries, and patients undergoing open heart surgery require platelet transfusions to survive.

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 pints
  • Burn Patient: 20 pints
  • Organ Transplant Patient: 30 pints
  • Bone Marrow Transplant Patient: 120 pints

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

Who Needs Plasma?
By giving your plasma through the automated collection process you will be providing life-giving transfusions to patients suffering from burns, traumas and bleeding disorders.

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 donation (for platelet donations)

Are Automated Donations Safe?
Yes. Each donation is closely supervised throughout the procedure by trained staff. A small percentage of your platelets or plasma are collected, so there is no risk of bleeding problems. Your body will replace the donated platelets within 24 hours and donated plasma within 2-3 days. The donation equipment (needle, tubing, collection bags) are 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 watch DVDs, 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.

Copyright 2005 Community Blood Center

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