What's it like: To donate platelets

Platelets are a component of your blood. People who have cancer, surgery patients and infants in intensive-care units might need platelets to help prevent complications.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 5, 2013

Why donate platelets?

Your blood is made up of several components, including red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Platelets are small cells that help your blood clot. Platelets in your body form a barrier at the site of an injury and give your body a chance to begin the healing process.

Some people donate platelets out of curiosity or because they've donated blood in the past and want to understand another donation process. Or you might donate platelets because you want to help others who need platelets. For example, people with leukemia or other cancers might not have enough platelets because of their disease or treatment.

What happens when you donate?

Before you donate, a medical professional will check your vital signs, including your iron level, pulse and temperature. As long as your vitals are good and you pass the medical history questionnaire, you will go to the donation area. Because of regulations set forth by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, some people are barred from donating.

Many donation facilities have comfortable chairs, TVs and headphones to make your donation time a more pleasant experience. In the donation area, you'll sit in a chair, possibly a recliner, and have a needle stuck in one of your arms.

A machine near your chair will pull blood from your body, separate the platelets and return your red blood cells and other blood components back to you. The machine will go in three-minute draw cycles and then switch to a three-minute return cycle. The entire donation process takes about two hours.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, medicine and fitness, among other things. She graduated from Oklahoma State University with a news-editorial and broadcast production degree. Outside of work, she enjoys riding her bike, taking pictures of...
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