There is currently an immediate need for platelet donations.
What are platelets?
Platelets are small plate-shaped cells that cluster together to help form blood clots when bleeding occurs.
Patients with cancer or leukemia, transplant patients, and people with blood disorders such as aplastic anemia, can all benefit from platelet transfusions. Platelets can also be needed in trauma or emergency situations, in addition to whole blood. Many of these patients need platelet transfusions to prevent uncontrolled bleeding.
Can I donate platelets?
If you weigh at least 110 lbs, and are age 18 (16 or 17 with a signed parental consent form), we welcome you to donate platelets. The donation process does not significantly decrease the number of platelets in the your body, and platelets are replaced in approximately two days. For that reason, you may donate platelets every seven days, up to 24 times a year.
What is the process for donating platelets?
Donating platelets is different than donating whole blood, because it entails an automated process called apheresis. During apheresis, whole blood is withdrawn, a desired component (platelets, for example) is separated and retained, and the remainder of the blood is returned to you. We are able to collect more of the specific component through apheresis than we could separate from a unit of whole blood. In other words: when you donate platelets, you are donating more platelets than we could get from a unit of your whole blood.
Not all of our community donor centers are able to perform apheresis donations. To donate platelets, please visit this page to make your appointment.
Why are there blood shortages?
For various reasons, including the unpredictable demands from trauma incidents, the blood inventory fluctuates hourly. Low blood inventory levels can potentially disrupt the delivery of health care and affect patient treatment. Central Blood Bank strives to maintain an optimum inventory level of seven days. With less than three percent of the western Pennsylvania population donating blood, it is a challenge to meet the heavy blood product demand.
Platelets have a five day shelf life. It is important for donors who are able to donate platelets to do so regularly in order to have platelets on the shelf, ready to go in any situation.
The Importance of Platelets
Recently, an investigation focused on the number of women who die each year from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes was featured on NPR. The story featured Lauren Bloomstein, a 33-year-old neonatal intensive care nurse who died twenty hours after giving birth to a healthy baby girl. In Lauren’s case, her medical team missed signs of HELLP syndrome, a severe variation of preeclampsia. Additionally, Lauren had dangerously low platelet counts and the hospital did not have enough platelets on hand to immediately perform a transfusion. Due to a state-wide platelet shortage, hours passed before platelets arrived and Lauren was able to have a transfusion.
Learn more about platelets and platelet donations.