10 Platelet Donation Essential Aspects

Platelet Donation

Platelets play a critical role in the blood clotting process. The number of platelets in the blood is referred to as the platelet count and normally ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 per one millionth of a litre of blood. Any platelet count of less than 150,000 is termed as thrombocytopenia while a platelet count greater than 450,000 is referred to as thrombocytosis. In the case of abnormal drop in platelet count, one of the treatment options relevant is platelet transfusion. Low platelet count in the blood may be as a result of various medical or hereditary reasons. When such situations happen, the number of platelets in the blood is considerably lower than the normal levels. This increases the risk of bleeding as platelets are responsible for blood clots. The situation may cause nosebleeds, heavier periods, bleeding gums, bruising or more serious blood disorders. If the amount of platelets is very low, doctors will likely recommend a platelet transfusion collected from viable donors. A consent is important when the patient have to undergo a platelet transfusion procedure.


1. Importance of platelet donation

The donation of platelets has proven to be lifesaving especially in bleeding patients with thrombocytopenia. It is through blood donation that this is made possible. Platelet donation plays an important role in availing blood for the replacement of lost platelets in the blood stream. Patients undergoing massive blood loss from trauma or surgery are transfused with red blood cells, resulting in partial replacement of the blood volume, fresh frozen plasma, and random donor platelet units. Prophylactic platelet donors enable the transfusion that prevents spontaneous bleeding in afebrile patients with platelet counts that are 10,000/ microlitre; such us in situation resulting from bone marrow suppression. Donation saves lives in patients with platelet consumption disorders such as heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), liver disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) and those with platelet function disorders.

2. Need for platelet donation

People with leukaemia, those undergoing cytotoxic chemotherapy and hematopoietic cell transplant (HCT) cannot produce their own platelets due to the suppressed bone marrow. Prophylactic transfusion is used in these settings which can only be possible through platelet donation. Platelets are also required when preparing for an invasive procedure if the level of thrombocytopenia is severe and the risk of bleeding is deemed high in a thrombocytopenic patient.

3. Method of collecting the platelets

Platelets are collected through a process called Plateletpheresis, thrombocytapheresis or thrombapheresis.  This is a process of collecting thrombocytes which is performed using devices used in blood donation, separating the platelets and the other components of blood to the donor. The process is also applicable therapeutically in treating disorders that result in high platelet counts such as thrombocytosis. When donating platelets, a small volume of the donor’s blood, about 1/4 pint, is drawn from the arm and passed through the cell-separating machine. The machine collectively segregate the platelets and safely returns the remaining blood components to the donor. This retuning is accompanied with some saline.

4. Quantity of platelets to donate

One platelet donation full session provides enough platelets for a full therapeutic dose for one patient in need. Some platelet donations provide enough platelets for two, three or even four therapeutic doses. However, it takes four to six whole blood donations to yield a single platelet therapeutic dose. Patients in need of platelets are usually undergoing chemotherapy or sometimes organ transplant and therefore, have weakened immune systems. When a platelet dose is sourced from a single donor, it reduces the patient’s exposure to possible multiple donors and is thus, preferred by most doctors.

5. Individuals eligible to donate platelets

Anyone can become a platelet donor if they are generally in good health and aged 17 to 65, for those who had never donated before. For those who are above 65, they can only donate platelets if they had donated prior. Donation for those who are over 70 years is only possible if they had given a full donation once or several times in the previous 2 years. Platelets cannot be donated by an individual who has used aspirin, aspirin-containing medications, piroxicam or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; 48 hours before donating platelets.

6. Important assessments and tests before donation of platelets

Before donation, a small sample of blood is given by the donor to determine if they have a sufficient platelet count. Assessment of the sample takes about 6-8 weeks, during which the blood group of the donor is determined. Gender, height and weight are determined to see if they have large enough blood volume to provide for donation of platelets.

7. How is platelet donation done

A cuff is usually placed around the donor’s arm, the skin is cleaned and a local anaesthetic is injected before a needle for the process is inserted. Blood samples are then taken for testing just as in blood donations. Height, weight and blood type tests are carried out to determine its suitability.

8. How to ensure safety of the donated platelets

Platelets can only be kept for 7 days. Proper handling is essential to ensure the entire process’ safety. This should be done starting from when the donor is selected until the point where it gets to the recipient. Each donation is supervised throughout the procedure by trained medical staff. The donation equipment that can be present includes the needle, tubing and collection bags that have undergone sterilization and immediately discarded after each donation session. Thus, it is almost impossible for any disease to be contracted from the process.

9. What to do after the donation

After a person has donated platelets, it is advised that the individual resumes to normal activities. However, some other restrictions may apply to varied blood donations. In cases of the onset or suffering from discomfort after the platelet donation process, it is advised that the donor seeks immediate attention from a doctor.

10. Challenges and side effects of blood donation

The equipment involved is expensive. Not all people are willing to donate platelets, and some of them even withdraw during the procedure. Side effects of the donation of platelets can be classified into three categories: Those that has something to do with blood pressure changes, challenges with vein access, and the effects of the anticoagulant on the calcium level of the donor. Blood pressure causes nausea, dizziness and fatigue. Venous access problems result in bruising (hematoma). Anticoagulant works through binding to the calcium available in blood. The process of donation drops the calcium level in the donor’s blood. This can result to more serious problems such as nerve irritation, fainting, and even short-duration tetany.


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