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Technology is available that can greatly enhance LifeSouth’s ability to collect the blood components that are most needed in our community at any given time. This technology allows a donor to give one, or more, specific blood component through a process called apheresis. Apheresis (pronounced ay-fer-ee-sis) is a Greek word meaning “to separate” or “to take away.”

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In this process, blood is collected from the donor’s arm and then separated into different components in a special machine designed for this purpose. The components that are needed are reserved and the other components are returned to the donor.

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Donating blood components through apheresis is just as safe as donating whole blood. Everything used in the process, including the needle, tubing and blood bags, are sterile and used only once before being discarded.

The requirements for being an apheresis donor are the same as for a whole blood donor except a platelet donor must not have taken medications which contain aspirin or ibuprofin for 48 hours before donating. Apheresis can be used to collect any blood component. Most often it is used to collect platelets – the component that is essential for blood clotting.

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The Need for Apheresis

Today, the treatment of choice for all patients needing blood is to transfuse only the blood components required by the patient. This is called “component therapy.”

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Apheresis gives donors the ability to donate only the component needed. Apheresis means separating the blood into components as it is being collected from the donor. It is the most efficient collection of a specific component – platelets, plasma, or red cells – needed by a patient.

Platelets help patients with bleeding disorders caused by leukemia and cancer treatment, or open-heart surgery. Plasma helps trauma and burn patients, transplant recipients and patients with clotting disorders. Red blood cells are transfused to patients undergoing surgery or in trauma, and for people who have chronic blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia.

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How Apheresis Helps

Apheresis allows more blood components to be collected from our shrinking donor population. When a person donates with apheresis, he or she can give enough of a blood component to provide one or more transfusions for a patient. For instance, one apheresis donor can give two units of red blood cells, instead of one. Apheresis also reduces the number of donors that one patient is “exposed to” with a transfusion. This reduces the risk of disease and viral exposure for the patient.

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All Blood Types Are Useful

Some people feel that if they have a common blood type, they are not needed as donors of blood or apheresis. Keep in mind that patients have all blood types. For this reason, a steady supply of blood of all types is constantly needed to maintain an adequate blood supply for the community.

Platelets are always in demand and people of any blood type with high platelet counts (the amount of platelets in their system) make ideal platelet donors. Donors with type O blood make ideal red cell donors. Although O is a common blood type, it can be transfused to patients of all blood types and is critical for use in emergency situations when a patient needs an immediate transfusion and there is not time to type that patient. People with type AB blood (less than 4 people in 100) are universal plasma donors; their plasma can safely be transfused to patients of any blood type.

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The Donation Process

During an apheresis donation, your blood flows through sterile, disposable tubing into a spinning bowl. The heavier red cells are forced to the outside of the bowl. The lighter plasma and platelets stay near the center. Once separated, the needed component(s) is transferred by automated equipment into blood bags. The other components are safely returned to the donor. The tubing and bowl “kit” used to collect the components is only used once and then discarded.

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A platelet donation takes 90 minutes to two hours, while a red cell or plasma donation lasts 40 minutes to one hour. Please avoid Aspirin before donating platelets. For more information about donating blood, please visit: Call your local blood center or the American Association of Blood Banks: 866-FROM-YOU

How often can you donate platelets?

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You can donate platelets as often as every two weeks. While some donors choose to donate often your schedule may only allow you to donate quarterly or monthly. We are happy to schedule you for appointments at the frequency that best suits your availability.

You may donate platelets up to 24 times a year.

Plasma can be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation.  Plasma can be donated every 28 days up to 13 times per year.

Whole Blood

You must wait a minimum of 56 days between whole blood donations. You must wait at least 72 hours after donating platelets before you can donate blood. After an automated double red cell collection, you must wait 112 days before donating again.


You can donate platelets once in a seven day period and up to 24 times a year. You must wait at least 72 hours after donating platelets before donating whole blood. After an automated double red cell collection, you must wait 112 days before donating again.

In any eight (8) week period, you can make one blood donation and one platelet donation or six (6) platelet donations.

Your platelet donation makes a difference.

Donating platelets is one way you can make an immeasurable difference. Platelet transfusions are essential in treating many different types of cancer. Platelets’ function in the body is to help the clotting process by sticking to the lining of blood vessels. They help prevent massive blood loss resulting from trauma and blood vessel leakage. Cancer patients may need transfusions of platelets if their bone marrow is not making enough. This happens when platelet-producing bone marrow cells are damaged by chemotherapy or radiation therapy or when they are crowded out of the bone marrow by cancer cells. A platelet donation provides as many of these blood-clotting cells as around five whole blood donations.

A steady supply of platelets from caring volunteer donors helps countless patients in their fight against cancer.

Information provided by the American Cancer Society

During an apheresis donation, your blood flows into a special centrifuge which separates your blood into specific components (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma). This process allows us to selectively remove the components that we need and return the rest to you.

How long will a platelet donation take?

A platelet donation takes approximately 1-2 hours. LifeSouth provides televisions, comfortable chairs, snacks and drinks to help keep you comfortable during your donation. We know your time is valuable and we promise to be attentive and accommodating to make your donation experience a pleasant one.