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Platelet Donation (Pheresis)

Every day cancer, cardiac and organ transplant patients run the risk of excessive bleeding which can even lead to death. But you can help. By donating platelets through a process called pheresis or apheresis, you can save a life.

Platelets are in high demand because:
  • Whole blood is donated more frequently than platelets.
  • Platelets have a short shelf life and can only be stored for five days.
  • Seriously ill patients can require multiple transfusions prior to recovery. The supply therefore must be continually maintained.

What is pheresis?
What are your platelets used for and why are they important?
Who benefits from your platelet donation?
How can you qualify as a donor?
What can you expect as a first-time donor?
Where do I go to donate?

What is pheresis?

Pheresis is a special type of blood donation during which whole blood is taken from a donor and a specific component is removed -- in this case, platelets. The remainder of the blood is then returned to the donor.

What are your platelets used for and why are they important?

Platelets are cells produced in the bone marrow that are needed to prevent bleeding. Donation of these cells is important, as certain patients need transfusions of only platelets to survive. Although a single whole blood donation does yield about one tablespoon of platelets, eight to ten times that amount is needed for one platelet transfusion.

Platelets are a very precious component of blood. Donations are needed frequently as these cells only have a shelf life of five days. To help keep the supply up, donors can safely give as frequently as every two weeks.

Who benefits from your platelet donation?

Your platelets are used by patients who:

  • are receiving chemotherapy -- cancer patients and leukemia patients
  • are receiving bone marrow transplants
  • have had cardiac surgery
  • have had an organ transplant
  • have aplastic anemia
  • are burn victims
  • seriously ill and who cannot produce their own platelets
Many of today's medical treatments, including chemotherapy and radiation, destroy platelets. Before transfusions became available, uncontrolled bleeding was the number one cause of death for those experiencing these serious medical conditions.

How you can qualify as a donor?

The average adult can donate platelets. To be a donor you must:

  • Be at least 17 years old
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds
  • Have a photo ID with you
  • Eat a meal within four hours of donation

You will be temporarily deferred from donation if you . . .

  • Are experiencing symptoms of a cold or sore throat
  • Are taking antibiotics for an infection
  • Have taken aspirin or aspirin-containing medications within the previous 48 hours
  • Have donated whole blood within the previous eight weeks or platelets within the previous two weeks
  • Have interior or exterior mouth sores
  • Have had any dental work (including cleaning) in the previous 24 hours

You can never donate platelets if you . . .

  • Have had hepatitis
  • Are an insulin-dependent diabetic
  • Have ever been diagnosed with a myeloma, lymphoma or leukemia
  • Have ever used illegal IV drugs
  • Are HIV positive
What can you expect as a first-time donor?

Step 1:
Call the donor recruiter at 314-362-1253 to schedule an appointment.

Step 2: Come to the Pheresis Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Be sure to bring a photo ID.

Step 3: A registered nurse will ask you confidential qualifying questions and will conduct a complete medical screening. Your temperature, pulse and blood pressure will be taken along with one tube of blood for analysis. If your hemoglobin (iron-rich cells) and platelet count are high enough, you will be moved to the donation area.

Step 4: Donating is safe, simple and relaxing. For the next 90 minutes, sit back in the cushy chair and put your feet up while the pheresis machine does all of the work. During the time it takes to complete your donation, you can read, watch television, use your computer and even make phone calls. The nurses in the Pheresis Center also can provide you with refreshments at your request.

The donation: One sterile single-use needle is used in the donation process, through which whole blood leaves your body. Some of the platelets are removed, and then the blood is returned to your body. An anticoagulant will flow through the sterile tubing attached to the needle, so your blood does not clot during donation. The tubing leads to a cell-separator or pheresis machine, where your platelets are collected in a product bag.

Occasionally, donors become cold during the procedure. This is because blood cools outside of the body. The nurses in the Pheresis Center are always ready with blankets and warm drinks to make you more comfortable.

Donors may experience tingling in their lips from the anticoagulant used during the procedure. To prevent this, increase your calcium on the day of donation. If you begin to experience these symptoms, it is important to let the nurse know.

Step 5: Before you leave, one of the nurses in the Center will provide you with complimentary refreshment.

Step 6: When you get home, you should follow the list of post-donation guidelines that the nurse will provide you. Be sure to resume your normal routine of eating and drinking for the next several hours. You also should avoid strenuous exercise or heavy lifting for the next 24 hours.

Step 7: Set up a time to donate again! Remember that most adults can give every two weeks.

Where do I go to donate?

Barnes-Jewish Hospital – Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place
4th Floor, Suite 4E
St. Louis, MO  63110

Weekday, weekend and evening donor times available. Call for an appointment.

To schedule appointments or for more information, email [email protected] or call 314.362.1253.

Pheresis Center location:

Barnes-Jewish Hospital Center for Advanced Medicine
4921 Parkview Place
4th Floor, Suite 4E
St. Louis, MO 63110

Weekday, weekend and evening donor times available.
To schedule appointments or for more information, email [email protected].


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