BLOOD PLASMA DONATION SIMPLIFIED: HOW IT WORKS, REQUIREMENTS, USES
Blood plasma is the liquid part of your blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body. It is essential for many vital functions, such as clotting, immunity, and fluid balance. Plasma donation is the process of giving your plasma to someone who needs it, such as a patient with a bleeding disorder, a burn victim, or a person with a rare disease. Plasma donation is different from blood donation in several ways.
In this blog, we will explain what blood plasma is, how it differs from blood, why people use donated plasma, the plasma donation process, and more.
What is Blood Plasma and How Does Plasma Differ from Blood?
Blood is composed of plasma and blood cells (red cells, white cells, and platelets). Blood plasma is the yellowish liquid that makes up about 55% of blood volume. It consists of up to 92% water as well as electrolytes (important minerals), enzymes, hormones, and other proteins. Some of the most important components of plasma include blood clotting factors, albumin, and antibodies.
The functions of blood and plasma are nearly identical. Blood plasma plays a crucial role in transporting nutrients, oxygen, and waste products throughout the body. It also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure, and pH balance. Blood cells contribute to these roles by being oxygen carriers, removing threats and debris, and promoting wound repair through blood clotting.
Donating plasma vs blood: Donating plasma is not the same as donating blood. The difference between donating blood and plasma is that plasma donation involves giving only the liquid part of your blood, while blood donation involves giving all the components of your blood. During plasma donation, the blood cells are separated from the plasma by a machine and returned to the donor during the donation process. This is known as apheresis. This makes the process slightly longer than blood donation, which takes only 10 mins.
Donating platelets vs plasma: Platelets are specialized blood clotting cells in the blood. When donating platelets, they are removed from your blood, with the plasma and other blood cells returned to the donor. Platelets can be donated once every 8 days, up to 24 times within a year, provided the donor has not taken antiplatelets or blood thinning medications within 48 hrs prior to the procedure.
What is Plasma Used For?
Plasma is used to formulate lifesaving treatments for people with bleeding disorders, rare diseases and in emergency settings. In these cases, the blood clotting factors and nutrients from plasma are required for optimal treatment. Plasma is often used to prevent mortality in emergency care wards, and some people rely on plasma transfusions to lead ordinary lives.
Plasma is commonly used to treat:
- Hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly.
- Immune deficiencies, such as primary immunodeficiency diseases (PIDD) and autoimmune disorders.
- Liver disease, that leads to blood clotting deficits or similar blood problems.
- Trauma, burns, shock, and other emergencies that cause severe blood loss or infection.
- Rare diseases, such as alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), and hereditary angioedema (HAE).
Why Should You Donate Plasma?
Donating plasma is a simple and rewarding way to help others in need. By donating plasma, you can:
- Save lives. One plasma donation can help up to three people.
- Stay healthy. Donating plasma can lower your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and boost your immune system.
How to Donate Plasma and What the Plasma Donation Process Involves
Plasma is collected the same way as blood during donation, the only difference being that the blood cells are returned to the donor. This makes the plasma donation process longer, with the average time being about 90-120 minutes.
Here are the steps involved in the plasma donation process:
- Registration. Find a clinic or medical facility that accepts plasma donations and sign up. You will need to provide your personal information, such as your name, address, phone number, and identification.
- Screening. Before you can undergo the procedure, you will be screened to make sure you are eligible to donate your plasma. You may need a doctor’s appointment or to fill out a form that asks about your medical history and lifestyle. You will also have a physical exam to check your vital signs, weight, and hemoglobin and protein levels. Regulations in some countries require the donor to be monitored for a while beforehand to ensure they are in good health and eligible. Other countries may be less strict about their donors and rather screen the donated plasma before administering it to a recipient.
- Donation. During the procedure, a healthcare professional will insert a needle into your arm and draw out some blood. A plasmapheresis machine then separates the plasma from the blood and returns the blood cells to you. An anticoagulant is often mixed with the blood to promote separation. The process takes between 1.5-2 hours.
- Recovery. Recovery can vary from person to person and depends on any side effects experienced. Most people tend to recover within 24 hours. You may be asked to wait for a few minutes longer after the procedure to rest and to allow for any possible light-headedness to pass. It is advisable to inform the staff if you experience any symptoms, drink plenty of fluids, and have a snack afterward. These may be provided to you.
- Second Donation. You may be required to donate plasma for a second time within a 6-month period after your first donation. This is required in some countries to ensure that the plasma is eligible for use after two separate samples have been tested.
How Often Can You Donate Plasma?
As blood plasma regenerates or replenishes at a faster rate than blood cells, plasma can be donated more often than blood. The recommended frequency for donating plasma is once every 28 days, up to 13 times a year. The recommended frequency for donating blood is once every 56 days, up to 6 times a year.
Is Donating Plasma Bad for You? Side Effects, Risks and Complications
Donating plasma is usually very safe if you are eligible for the process and prepare well. The side effects of plasma donation, if any, usually last a short time and can be prevented or treated easily. The exact duration tends to vary depending on the individual. Side effects are more frequent in younger individuals, those who have never donated before, and in women.
Common side effects of donating plasma include:
- Dizziness, fainting or light-headedness
Most side effects resolve within minutes to hours after the procedure.
Complications and risks of donating plasma are rare (affecting 1 in 1000-1 million people), yet there are a few cases of individuals who contracted infections or had an allergic reaction to citrate (an anticoagulant used to separate blood cells and plasma). Reactions to citrate may cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, cramps or chest pain that tend to resolve within a few minutes to hours. It is important to report symptoms to the medical personnel handling your plasma donation. Infections may take up to several weeks to disappear with appropriate treatment.
Long-Term Side Effects of Donating Plasma Regularly
For frequent donors, the long-term effects of donating plasma can include prolonged dehydration, low blood pressure, iron deficiency, vein damage, and fatigue. If planning to donate plasma regularly, it is essential to adhere to the guidelines and replenish oneself properly in between procedures.
Does Donating Plasma Hurt?
Most people experience a brief mild stinging sensation when the needle goes in and sometimes slight discomfort during the procedure.
Is Donating Plasma Bad For Your Kidneys?
Donating plasma is unlikely to be harmful to your kidneys if you are healthy and take the right precautions. Those with kidney conditions should consult with their doctor about whether donating plasma is contraindicated or not.
Plasma Donation Requirements
For donating plasma, you must meet certain requirements. These can differ from country to country and are often strictly regulated by medical governing bodies.
Some general plasma donor requirements include:
- You must be at least 18 years old (the age restriction may differ across regions).
- You must weigh at least 110 pounds (or 50 kilograms).
- You must be in good health and free of any infectious diseases, provable by medical screening and tests.
- You must not have any tattoos or piercings that are less than 12 months old.
- You must not have any medications or conditions that may affect your plasma quality or safety.
Some specific requirements may vary depending on the plasma donation center or the type of plasma product you are donating for. For example,
- If you are donating for hemophilia patients, you must be a male or a female who has never been pregnant.
- If you are donating for immune deficiency patients, you must have high levels of certain antibodies in your plasma.
- If you are donating for rare disease patients, you must have a specific genetic mutation or protein deficiency in your plasma.
You should always check with the plasma donation center before you donate to make sure you meet their criteria.
Does Blood Type Matter For Plasma?
Anyone with any blood type can donate plasma, however, the universal blood type donor, type AB, is more sought after than all the other types. This is because recipients of any blood type can accept blood from an AB donor, making it ideal for emergency purposes. Other donor types may only give plasma to recipients of the same blood type.
What Can Disqualify You From Donating Plasma?
Plasma donation disqualifications include recent sickness or chronic illness, being on certain medications, recent surgery, vaccinations or similar procedures, and a history of travel to countries with a high risk of infectious diseases. Those with cancer, sickle cell anemia, heart disease, HIV, hepatitis, or tuberculosis may be disqualified.
Check with your doctor or the plasma donation center first to see if you are eligible to donate.
What Medications Prevent You From Donating Plasma?
Some examples of medications that may defer your donation are antibiotics, blood thinners, antiplatelet drugs, and drugs that can harm an unborn baby. You may still be eligible if there is an interval of 24-48 hrs before your last dose, yet some medications require up to 6 months of clearance first.
As other medications may also interfere, it is best to get confirmation beforehand on those that are contraindicated or for how long they need to be clear from your system. Do not stop prescription medication without medical supervision or advice.
Can Diabetics Donate Plasma?
Diabetics may be able to donate plasma if their condition is well controlled. However, it is not advisable for them as it may lower their blood pressure or significantly affect their blood glucose levels.
Can You Donate Plasma While Breastfeeding?
It is not advisable to donate blood or plasma while breastfeeding. Side effects such as dehydration or electrolyte loss can interfere with the milk’s quality and tire the mother out at a critical developmental time.
How Long After Surgery Can You Donate Plasma?
The answer to how long after surgery can you donate plasma may vary depending on the type of surgery, the healing process, and the plasma donation center. Some general guidelines include:
- Waiting until your surgical incisions have healed completely before donating plasma. This may take 2 to 6 weeks or longer, depending on the surgery and the individual.
- Checking with your doctor and the plasma donation center before donating plasma. They may have specific criteria or recommendations for your condition.
- Waiting at least 4 months from receiving a blood transfusion before donating plasma.
Plasma Donation Weight Chart
The amount of blood that is extracted for plasma donation depends on the type of donation and the donor’s blood volume. Your weight, height, hemoglobin level, and blood type are used to calculate the quantity of plasma you can donate.
To give a rough idea of how much blood will be collected, here is a plasma donation weight chart adapted from US FDA specifications:
Plasma volume or weight
110–149 lbs (50.0–67.7 kg)
625 mL (640 g)
690 mL (705 g)
150–174 lbs (68.2–79.1 kg)
750 mL (770 g)
825 mL (845 g)
175 lbs and up (79.5 kg)
800 mL (820 g)
880 mL (900 g)
How to Prepare for Plasma Donation
For a smooth and safe plasma donation experience, here are some tips you can follow before, during, and after your donation:
Before donating plasma:
- Drink plenty of fluids to hydrate yourself.
- Eat a balanced meal low in fat and high in protein and iron.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco for at least 24 hours before donation.
- Get enough sleep and rest.
- Bring your identification, proof of address, and any other documents required by the plasma donation center.
During the donation:
- Relax and breathe normally.
- Squeeze a stress ball or move your fingers to improve blood flow.
- Inform the staff if you feel any discomfort, pain, or dizziness.
After plasma donation:
- Drink more fluids to replace the lost plasma volume.
- Eat a snack or a light meal to replenish your energy.
- Avoid strenuous activities, such as lifting heavy objects, for at least 24 hours after donation.
- Keep the bandage on your arm for at least 4 hours and apply pressure if bleeding occurs.
- Contact the plasma donation center if you have any questions or concerns.
Blood plasma donation is a valuable and rewarding way to help others in need. It is used for helping people with rare blood-related diseases and in emergency care. To donate plasma, you need to meet certain requirements, prepare well, and rehydrate afterward. By donating plasma, you can save lives and potentially improve your health.
-  https://www.mayoclinic.org/blood-donor-program/plasma-platelet-donations
-  https://www.hhs.gov/givingequalsliving/giveplasma/why-give
-  https://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2003:033:0030:0040:EN:PDF
-  https://www.edqm.eu/en/blood-guide
-  https://www.hhs.gov/givingequalsliving/giveplasma/giving-process
-  https://www.lifeblood.com.au/blood/making-your-donation/prepare-and-aftercare/know-the-risks
-  https://www.donatingplasma.org/who
-  https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-information.html
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