What is Apheresis or Automated Donation?

Automated donation is a type of blood donation during which blood components (platelets, plasma, or red blood cells) are donated. This is different than donating whole blood. The automated collection system used at TBC allows for any combination of platelets, plasma, or red blood cell units to be donated.

What is plateletpheresis?

Plateletpheresis (pronounced Plate-let-fer-E-sis) is the process of collecting platelets from a donor. Platelets are collected, and the plasma and red blood cells are returned to the donor.

Who can donate platelets with apheresis?

Almost anyone who is a whole blood donor can donate platelets. You are eligible if you are at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and are in generally good health. You can donate platelets every 7 days or a total of 24 times per year. Platelet donors must not take aspirin or products containing aspirin within 48 hours of their donation. Aspirin consumption takes away the “stickiness” of platelets causing the platelets to lose their ability to adhere properly when needed to stop bleeding.

Apheresis Facts

  • Apheresis usually refers to platelets, which are the most common components drawn through this method.
  • In the human body, platelets are the first step in the clotting process.
  • Apheresis donors give about 10% of their platelets, with no loss in clotting ability.
  • Bone marrow transplant, cancer, and leukemia patients benefit significantly from platelets, which greatly reduce the chances of rejection.
  • It takes about 1 to 1.5 hours to collect enough platelets to help bone marrow transplant, cancer, and leukemia patients.
  • Donors with high platelet counts often are able to donate two or three units of platelets in one visit.
  • The collection bags, tubing and needles are all sterile, and used for one donation only. The donor’s blood never comes in direct contact with the system.
  • Individuals can donate platelets frequently (every 7 days) because platelets are rapidly replaced, usually within one day.
  • Once collected, platelets must be transfused within five days or be discarded.
  • On average, leukemia patients require more than 20 platelet transfusions over a six-month period.
  • Many critically ill patients require tissue-typed platelets (HLA matches). Regular donors are typed and used to meet these needs. The chance for an exact patient-donor match is 1 in 20,000. HLA-typed donors are encouraged to join the National Bone Marrow Registry. To learn more about HLA Typing and about how easy it is to help critically ill patients nationally and locally, click here.

Common Questions

Which donation is needed most often, platelets or whole blood?
Both are always needed. The rarest blood type and blood component is the one that’s not available when a patient needs it. Our staff can advise you of the need when you register to donate.

If I donate platelets, when can I give whole blood?
You only have to wait 7 days before you can give whole blood after donating platelets since very few red blood cells (approximately 32 milliliters) are lost during a platelet donation. However, if you donate whole blood first, you must wait 56 days before you can donate platelets or any other blood product due to the fact that you lose approximately 200 milliliters of red blood cells during whole blood donations.

Does it hurt?
You may feel an initial pinch or sting with the needle, but you should not feel discomfort during the donation. Some donors experience tingling during the donation, but increasing calcium in your diet prior to donating helps alleviate this symptom.

Is there a chance of contracting a disease from the equipment?
No! A disposable, sterile donation kit is used for each donor. The tubing and needles are disposed of after each donation.

How long does it take?
The actual platelet donation time takes between 1 to 1.5 hours. This depends on the donor’s platelet count, and total blood volume.

What will I do during my donation?
Most donors watch movies (we have over 200 to choose from). Others prefer to listen to music, look out the window, or just enjoy the company of our friendly, professional staff.

How will I feel after I donate?
You will feel great about giving others a fighting chance at life. Physicially, you should feel perfectly fine. Only a small percentage of your platelets are collected, and are replaced within 24 hours. You should not feel tired or lightheaded since you loose such a small amount of red blood cells. Try to avoid strenuous exercise or lifting after donating.

For more information, call the Apheresis Department
at (864) 751-1168