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Donating plasma or platelets by apheresis

Apheresis is the process we use to collect just plasma or just platelets from your blood when you give a donation. It’s a lot like a normal blood donation, but it just takes a little longer and we return your red blood cells to you during your donation.

How does apheresis work?

  • A cell separating machine draws blood from your arm, separates out and collects the plasma or platelets, and returns the rest back to you by the same arm using a closed, sterile system of plastic bags and tubing. It does this by spinning the blood very fast in a small centrifuge.
  • The process is repeated until enough plasma or platelets are collected. This takes between 45 minutes and an hour. You can read, watch TV or relax, just like during a normal donation. Each set of tubing is used once only, for your donation, and then disposed of.

Why do we use apheresis machines?

More plasma and platelets for patients
Donating using an apheresis machine gives a higher volume of concentrated plasma or platelets for each donation. Although we can separate out plasma and platelets from whole blood donations in our laboratory after they’re given, apheresis produces more plasma or platelets for patients in need.

The chance to donate more often
When you donate by apheresis your red cells are returned to you, which means you can donate more often if you want – every 2-3 weeks, instead of after 12 weeks as with whole blood.

If you try giving plasma or platelets by apheresis and don’t wish to do it again, if you’re eligible you can always go back to giving whole blood.