Ask the Experts - Autumn 2021

Donations of blood, platelets and plasma are simple and easy ways to make an immeasurable impact to other people’s lives.

They are, however, still a marvel of modern medicine and it’s common for donors to have questions about the process.

Thankfully, our clinical experts are on hand with the answers…

What is donated plasma used for?

Plasma makes up over half of your blood volume. It’s a clear, straw-coloured liquid that carries platelets and both red and white blood cells around your body and contains important molecules.

Plasma, either separated from whole blood donations or collected alongside platelet donations, is frozen to make a product known as Fresh Frozen Plasma, or FFP.

FFP can also be processed further to make a product known as cryoprecipitate.

Plasma can help the blood to clot, so it’s often used to help patients who have lost a lot of blood and those who are needing emergency life-saving surgery.

Plasma can also be used for medicines, used to treat over 50 different conditions. Some of these conditions are quite rare but can affect patients for all their life. Thousands of NHS patients a year need these plasma treatments. Plasma for medicines is donated on its own. Find out more about becoming a plasma donor.

A man holding his plasma donation
Plasma is often used to help patients who have lost a lot of blood

How should I prepare for a platelet donation?

Preparation for platelet donation is very similar to blood donation. You should drink plenty of liquids to stay hydrated and avoid alcohol. You should also avoid fatty foods as they can affect the quality of your donation.

Please don’t take Ibuprofen, aspirin, and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . Paracetamol and codeine-based medicines are fine.

Platelet donation can take up to 90 minutes. Our donation centres have free WiFi and TV screens, so while you donate you can watch TV, use your phone, read a book, or just relax.

During the donation, your blood is taken and spun by a machine which extracts the platelets. The rest of your blood is returned to you.

We keep a close eye on you while you donate. Snacks and drinks are available throughout your donation.

Platelets are used to help stop bleeding and for people with low platelet levels due to cancer.

Find out more about platelet donation.