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The journey of blood

Have you ever wondered what happens to your blood after donating? Before your life-saving donation reaches people in need, it goes through a stringent and complex process to ensure we maintain one of the safest blood supplies in the world.

Donating

Your donation is collected into specially designed bags that allow everything to be done in a sterile way. The bags are carefully packed and sent from the donor centre to one of the four processing centres that we run in Australia. We have processing centres in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth.

Processing

Every donation is checked and recorded into our computer system as soon as it arrives in the processing centre. The donation is weighed and samples are sent for various tests.

The donation is then spun at 4200 revs per minute in a centrifuge, which separates the whole blood components into red cells, plasma and platelets. The blood bag is taken to a special machine that squeezes the components into individual bags. From there, the blood goes on three different journeys.

Red blood cells, platelets and plasma

The red blood cells collected are what you might see in a hospital. They’re used in a lot of treatments, like for patients with anaemia, or for blood loss.

The platelets components are pooled with four other donations of the same blood group. The mixture is then processed in another centrifuge. This is to ensure that no red blood cells remain with the platelets. The platelets are stored on room temperature controlled shelves that are constantly moving to prevent clotting.

The final component to be sorted is plasma, which are snap frozen. Plasma can be further processed which can make up to 18 different life-saving products, including intravenous immunoglobulin which is used to help people with immune deficiencies. Plasma antibodies are also used to treat people who have been exposed to tetanus, chicken pox and hepatitis B. 

Final steps

Once the donation has been given a good bill of health, it’s sent off to the blood storage holding area. Phone orders come into the processing centre and our staff find the products that are needed in the fridges and freezes. The order is then packaged and sent via courier to hospitals and medical facilities.

Who receives your donation?

Cancer patients are the main users of platelets, while people with burns and immune deficiencies often need plasma. Red blood cells can go to many different patients – from trauma patients who have lost a lot of blood, to women experiencing birthing complications.

You can donate blood at any of our 100-plus permanent and mobile donor centres across Australia. Take a life-saving leap and book your appointment today.