Blood donation is a voluntary procedure that can help save the lives of others. There are several types of blood donation, which help meet different medical needs.
This is the most common type of blood donation, during which you donate about a pint of whole blood. The blood is then separated into its components — red cells, plasma, platelets.
During apheresis, you are hooked up to a machine that can collect and separate blood components, including red cells, plasma, platelets, and return unused components back to the donor.
Platelet donation (plateletpheresis) collects only platelets — the cells that help stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs (clotting) in blood vessels.
Donated platelets are commonly given to people with leukemia, people receiving chemotherapy and babies with severe infections.
Double red cell donation allows you to donate twice the amount of red blood cells than you normally would during a whole blood donation. Red blood cells deliver oxygen to the entire body.
People with a medical need for only red blood cells include those with severe blood loss, such as after an injury or accident, and those who have anemia with serious symptoms
Plasma donation (plasmapheresis) collects the liquid portion of the blood (plasma). Plasma helps blood clot and contains proteins and other substances, such as electrolytes, that help the body function normally.
Plasma is commonly given to people with liver conditions, burns and severe bacterial infections in their blood.
You agree to have blood drawn so that it can be given to someone who needs a blood transfusion.
Millions of people need blood transfusions each year. Some may need blood during surgery. Others depend on it after an accident or because they have a disease that requires blood components. Blood donation makes all of this possible. There is no substitute for human blood — all transfusions use blood from a donor.
Blood donation is safe. New, sterile disposable equipment is used for each donor, so there's no risk of contracting a bloodborne infection by donating blood.
If you're a healthy adult, you can usually donate a pint of blood without endangering your health. Within 24 hours of a blood donation, your body replaces the lost fluids. And after several weeks, your body replaces the lost red blood cells.
To be eligible to donate whole blood, plasma or platelets, you must be:
Eligibility requirements differ slightly between different types of blood donation, and from center to center. Check with your local donor center for specifics.
Before your blood donation:
Before you can donate blood, you will be asked to fill out a confidential medical history that includes direct questions about behaviors known to carry a higher risk of bloodborne infections — infections that are transmitted through the blood. All of the information from this evaluation is kept strictly confidential.
Because of the risk of bloodborne infections, not everyone can donate blood. The following high-risk groups are not eligible to donate blood:
You will also have a brief physical exam, which includes checking your blood pressure, pulse and temperature. A small sample of blood is taken from a finger prick and is used to check the oxygen-carrying component of your blood (hemoglobin level). If your hemoglobin concentration is normal and you've met all the other screening requirements, you can donate blood.
You lie or sit in a reclining chair with your arm extended on an armrest. A blood pressure cuff or tourniquet is placed around your upper arm to fill your veins with more blood. This makes the veins easier to see and easier to insert the needle into, and also helps fill the blood bag more quickly. Then the skin on the inside of your elbow is cleaned.
A new, sterile needle is inserted into a vein in your arm. This needle is attached to a thin, plastic tube and a blood bag. Once the needle is in place, you tighten your fist several times to help the blood flow from the vein. Blood initially is collected into tubes for testing. When these have been collected, blood is allowed to fill the bag, about a pint. The needle is usually in place about 10 minutes. When complete, the needle is removed, a small bandage is placed on the needle site and a dressing is wrapped around your arm.
Another method of donating blood becoming increasingly common is apheresis. During apheresis, blood is drawn from one arm and pumped through a machine that separates out a specific component, such as platelets. The rest of the blood is then returned through a vein in your other arm. This process allows more of a single component to be collected. It takes longer than standard blood donation — typically up to two hours.
After donating you sit in an observation area, where you rest and eat a light snack. After 15 minutes, you can leave. After your blood donation:
Contact the blood donor center or your doctor if you forgot to report any important health information before you donated or if you had any problems or needed medical care after giving blood.
You should also call the center if you:
Your blood will be tested to determine your blood type — classified as A, B, AB or O — and your Rh factor. The Rh factor refers to the presence or absence of a specific antigen — a substance capable of stimulating an immune response — in the blood. You'll be classified as Rh positive or Rh negative, meaning you do or don't carry the antigen. This information is important because your blood type and Rh factor must be compatible with the blood type and Rh factor of the person receiving your blood.
Your blood will also be tested for bloodborne diseases, such as hepatitis, HIV and syphilis. If these tests are negative, the blood is distributed for use in hospitals and clinics. If any of these tests are positive, the donor center notifies you, and your blood is discarded.