The Apheresis Donation Process

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 graphicApheresis (pronounced ay-fer-ee-sis) is a Greek word meaning “to separate” or “to take away.” 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.

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.

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.” 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

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.

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.

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. A platelet donation takes 90 minutes to two hours, while a red cell or plasma donation lasts 40 minutes to one hour.

Click here for information on how you can make sure to avoid certain items before you donate platelets. For more information about donating blood, please visit:
Call your local blood center or the American Association of Blood Banks: 866-FROM-YOU