Research study update: Expanding choices for new blood donors: first appointment plasma donation

What was the question?

Previously, Lifeblood’s policy was that new donors need to give at least one blood donation before becoming a plasma donor.

We wanted to find out whether allowing new donors over 30 to donate plasma at their first appointment would have any impact on when they return. We also wanted to see how first time donors who donate plasma felt after their donation and compare that to first time blood donors.

Why is it important?

Global demand for plasma-derived products, including intravenous immunoglobulin, continues to grow. In contrast,medical advances and improvements in patient blood management mean that demand for red cells is shrinking. With fewer collections required to meet red cell demand, the amount of fractionated plasma available from blood donations is decreasing. As a consequence, donor centre operations have shifted away from blood collections and towards recruiting and retaining plasma donors.

What did we do?

Ten donor centres and nearly 4000 donors participated in this trial. Each centre was randomised to offer plasma to new donors in a step wedge fashion with each step commencing 2 weeks apart. After 20 weeks, all ten centres in the trial were offering plasma donation to new donors.


What did we find out?

Donors who donated plasma as their first donation had similar experiences to donors who donated blood.

We found that:

  • the rate of return for first-time plasma donors returned was no worse than blood donors
  • there was no difference between the plasma and blood donors’ overall satisfaction of the donation process.
  • the rate of adverse events for new plasma donors was within acceptable limits seen with new blood donors.

All new donors who attended one of the participating study centres during the study period and met the selection criteria were included in the study. These donors were provided information about the study in centre or via email. Donors were also sent an opt-in study specific donor satisfaction survey to complete to capture how they felt during and after their donation. Donors were followed for a period of 6 months from the date of their first blood collection to see how long it took them to return.

What are the next steps?

First appointment or direct-to-plasma donations have commenced nationally for all donors over 18 years of age. The Research and Development team plan to follow up the ADOPT donors for a further 18 months to investigate longer term retention at 12 and 24 months. We plan to study a group of over 10 000 donors in late 2018/2019 to understand any differences in the rate of adverse events between new blood and direct-to-plasma donors.

If you would like more information please contact Elizabeth Knight.

We would like to thank the Donor Services staff involved in recruiting the donors both at the NCC and Donor Centres. We are also thankful for the donor centres involved in allowing us to conduct the study and for all the donors who have participated.

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