What Is Plasma Donation?

By Mali Anderson in Helping Hands

If you're new to blood donation and unfamiliar with the different types of donations, you may be wondering—what is plasma donation?

Plasma itself is a portion of the blood, and this type of blood donation can also help save lives. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets all move through the body suspended in plasma. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, plasma is used in treatments for burns, trauma incidents, and individuals with rare chronic conditions. Plasma treatments can help to support a variety of bodily functions, including the distribution of proteins, hormones, and nutrients.

If you are interested in donating plasma, here's what to know about the process and how it differs from a whole blood donation.

Sign reading Give Blood This Way

Plasma Donation vs. Standard Blood Donation

When you participate in a standard blood donation, you are typically donating one pint of whole blood. During a plasma-only donation, the process differs. The American Red Cross explains how this liquid portion is separated from the blood cells. After the blood is drawn, it is sent through a state-of-the-art machine that gathers the plasma. Then, saline is added to the donor's platelets and red blood cells, and they are returned to the body.

What to Expect

To prepare for your donation, the Red Cross suggests avoiding unhealthy, fatty foods and hydrating with water. When you arrive at the facility, as with a standard blood donation, the blood center volunteer or worker will give you a health history screening, check your pulse and temperature, and assess the hemoglobin levels within your blood.

Once you are seated for a donation, your arm will be cleaned with an antiseptic and a needle will be inserted to draw blood. The first visit could take around two hours, but subsequent visits—should you choose to become a regular donor—may be shorter.

After your donation, you will be given a small amount of food and something to drink, and you'll be encouraged to rest for approximately fifteen minutes.

Eligibility for Plasma Donation

Plasma donors typically must be at least 17 years old and weigh a minimum of 110 pounds. Specific eligibility requirements for each blood donation type are provided by the Red Cross.

Blood types fall into eight major groups: A+, A-, B+, B-, AB+, AB-, O+, and O-. All blood types can donate plasma, but the greatest need is from individuals with the AB blood type. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals with AB blood type are desired donors because their plasma is versatile, meaning it can be used in individuals with any blood type. Donors with a blood type of AB- or AB+ who are in good health are encouraged to become regular donors, if possible.

Blood center worker drawing blood from volunteer

How Do You Donate Plasma?

While there are organizations that pay plasma donors, you may also consider connecting with a nonprofit organization. You can make a donation appointment at a blood center such as the Red Cross, which allows one plasma donation every twenty-eight days. Your donation is a way to help another in need survive and heal.

What is plasma donation to you? Share your story with @toms_of_maine on Instagram!

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Why It's Good

With just an hour or so of your time, your plasma donation can support the healthcare system's ability to provide lifesaving techniques to those in need.