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The Whole Blood Donation Process

After completing your “mini-physical” and medical history, you will be directed to a donor chair. A trained donor specialist will clean your arm in preparation for the actual donation.

The needlestick feels like a pinch in the crook of your arm and after four to eight minutes, you will have donated approximately one pint of blood. After a successful whole blood donation, you must wait eight weeks (56 days) to make a whole blood donation or an apheresis donation. The blood will be separated into different components such as red cells, platelets and plasma. Splitting your blood donation into these components means that your one blood donation can help save the lives of three or more people. Patients who need transfusions only receive the component their body needs.

donating_wbThe Need for Whole Blood

Less than five percent of the eligible population donates blood in the U.S. each year. Blood centers across the U.S. have an increasingly difficult time maintaining an adequate supply. Blood shortages are occurring at a growing rate as blood donations decline and blood transfusions increase.

One out of every seven people entering a hospital needs blood.

Blood is a vital lifesaving force and has been defined as a “national resource.” Blood has a limited shelf life so the supply must be constantly replenished. Supply and demand fluctuate as well, which can create life-threatening shortages. Compatibility is also an issue. There may be a shortage of a specific type of blood. Because O negative can be used by all blood types and is often used in emergency situations, O negative usage exceeds the percentage of O negative people in the population. People with type A positive can receive blood from A or O positive or negative individuals. Type O positive can only receive O positive or O negative. Type B negative is the second least common blood type. Patients with B negative blood can receive only B negative or O negative blood. Type AB negative is the least common blood type. Patients of this type can receive blood from donors of all negative blood types.

How is whole blood used?

Whole blood is rarely transfused. When a pint of blood is collected, it is separated into an average of three components – plasma, red blood cells and platelets – and patients only receive the components they need to survive.

What is plasma?

Plasma is the fluid portion of blood and can be frozen for up to one year. Among those who most frequently need plasma are burn patients and trauma patients.

What are red blood cells?

Red blood cells carry oxygen and can be refrigerated for up to 42 days. Patients who need transfusions of red blood cells include anyone who experiences blood loss through surgery or trauma injury or has a chronic anemia.

What are platelets?

Platelets cause the blood to clot and are the most delicate of all components, lasting only five days after they are donated. Patients who need platelets are commonly those with leukemia, or other cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

What can I expect?

First you must show a valid photo I.D. Then a donor technician completes computer registration for your donation. Then you answer questions relating to your medical history. A brief “mini-physical” tests your blood pressure, the iron content of your blood, your body temperature and pulse. The actual whole blood donation only lasts between four and eight minutes. Donors are asked to rest afterwards for about ten minutes before leaving. The entire donation process takes approximately 45 minutes. For more information about donating blood, please visit: AABB. Call your local blood center or American Association of Blood Banks866-FROM-YOU