Blood vs Plasma vs Platelets: Types of Donations Explained

10 June, 2020

Among the three, it is quite likely that you will be most familiar with blood donation. However, plasma and platelet donations are equally crucial. to humankind.  Therapies derived from both donations help millions of patients around the world fight fatal diseases.  

Every day, all three donations, made regularly, ensure that these patients live another day of a rich and fulfilled life. Which is why an awareness of their differences is important not only to do away with common confusions but also because they are noble services in themselves.  

So let’s take a look. 

  1. What is blood donation? 

As mentioned, blood donation is what people are most familiar with. This is because it is the most common type of donation. However, blood is not a homogenous liquid. It is composed of blood cells, plasma, and platelets. In clinical terms, these are called "transferable units."  

And so blood donations occur in two ways: 

  • Blood can be donated whole, and either transfused in its original form or can be separated into its components to help multiple people. This makes Whole Blood Donation the most flexible type of donation. It is most commonly used to treat patients of trauma or patients undergoing surgery.  

  • Or, blood can be donated exclusively for its red cells. Red blood cells are the pancake-shaped component of your blood. They contain the protein hemoglobin which gives your blood its red hue. Although more crucially, hemoglobin contains iron, which makes the cells the perfect vehicle to carry oxygen on its way in and carbon dioxide on its way out. This exclusive type of blood donation is called Power Red Donation. This is achieved with a process that first separates the red cells in your collected blood from its plasma and platelets, and then returns the latter two back to you safely and harmlessly. These red cells are given most commonly to trauma patients, newborns, and emergency transfusions during birth, or anyone suffering blood loss. 

  1. What is platelet donation? 

Like Power Red Donation, platelet donation is the process of separating platelets from your blood and returning the rest of its components back to you safely and harmlessly.  

Platelets are tiny, colorless blood cells that help your body form clots to stop bleeding. They are separated by an apheresis machine, a device that receives blood collected from a patient or donor and separates it into its various components. However, while extracting the platelets, it also extracts some plasma along with it. Then, while returning the remaining components, it returns most of that plasma as well.  

The platelets you donate are essential to cancer treatments and organ transplant procedures.  

  1. What is plasma donation? 

Finally, plasma donation is the process of separating plasma from your blood and returning the remaining constituents back to you. This is achieved with a process called plasmapheresis.  

Plasmapheresis is a two-cycle process in which, first, your blood is collected or drawn and the plasma is separated, and second, the remaining components are returned back to you. The cycles are called a draw and return cycles, respectively.  

Your plasma is your blood’s largest component, constituting around 55% of it. It helps maintain your circulation and removes waste products by transporting them to your kidneys. It also contains electrolytes that regulate your blood’s chemistry and vital proteins such as albumin which regulate the flow of fluids in your bloodstream. Let’s not forget the antibodies in it which help our bodies fight infections.  

Given its yellowish color and great importance, your plasma is often referred to as the ‘liquid gold’ in your veins. 

Your donated plasma is used in emergency and trauma situations to help stop bleeding. However, therapies manufactured from your plasma are also extensively used to help treat immunodeficiency disorders.  

Want to donate plasma? Find a center near you: Click here



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