Platelet Donor Information

Often, family members, friends and neighbors ask us how they can help. One way is to consider becoming a platelet donor at RPCI. If someone you know is  interested in sharing the “gift of life” with our patients, please give them the following information, or have them contact the Plateletpheresis Center at RPCI.

The special blood collection process by which platelets are separated from whole blood so they may be donated for transfusion is called plateletpheresis. A donation of platelets can help patients recover from a BMT. Platelets, the smallest cell elements in the bloodstream, help stop bleeding. Certain cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or a BMT, stop the production of platelets and lower the patient’s platelet count. If platelets are not replaced, the patient is at risk of severe bleeding. Since platelet therapy may be required for a long period of time, platelet donations can help Roswell Park Cancer Institute maintain its platelet bank for patients.

A person is eligible to donate platelets if he or she:

  • Is in good health
  • Is at least 17 years of age
  • Weighs at least 110 pounds
  • Last donated whole blood at least eight weeks prior to a platelet donation
  • Has not taken aspirin or aspirin by-products within three days (72 hours) prior to his/her donation appointment (Tylenol® or ibuprofen are acceptable)

A person is not eligible to donate platelets if he or she:

  • Has a history of cancer, hepatitis, diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, jaundice (except as a newborn), AIDS or any other blood and/or sexually transmitted diseases
  • Falls into any of the HIV high-risk categories:
      • A positive blood test for AIDS
      • Past/present intravenous drug abuse
      • Anyone engaging in prostitution
      • Males who have/had sex with other males
      • Females who have/had sex with males who have/had sex with other males
      • Anyone who receives or has received clotting factor concentrates for a bleeding problem such as hemophilia
      • Anyone with multiple sex partners
  • Has had major surgery within one year or minor surgery within six weeks before his/her donation
  • Has been to a malarial country or have taken malarial drugs in the last three years (RPCI’s Donor Center staff can identify those countries for potential donors)
  • Has traveled to certain countries within prescribed time periods (These restrictions will be reviewed when a donor calls to schedule an appointment)
  • Is on antibiotics:
      • Taken orally – wait two weeks after last dose
      • Injections – wait one month after your last shot
      • Tetracycline is acceptable
  • Has had ear piercings, a tattoo or acupuncture within 12 months prior to donation
  • Is pregnant or think she might be pregnant
  • Has an active cold, cold sore, infection, asthma or allergy
  • Is on certain prescription medicines (A potential donor must know the name and purpose of each prescription drug he/she is taking and give this information to the RPCI Donor staff)
  • Has blood counts (white cells, hemoglobin, platelets), blood pressure, pulse or temperature that are not within normal limits (These will be checked on the day of donation prior to the procedure)

Dos & Don’ts Prior to Donation

  • Do not take aspirin or anything that contains aspirin for 72 hours before donating platelets.

  • Do not drink any alcoholic beverages within four hours of donating platelets.
  • Do not donate if feeling ill or if experiencing a headache on the scheduled donation day (Any minor irritations could cause a severe reaction during the donation process).
  • Do eat at least one hour before donating platelets.
  • Do call the Donor Center if unable to keep an appointment.

What to Expect

Plateletpheresis is a blood donation process that allows an individual to give just one part of his/her blood – platelets – repeatedly. During the two-hour process, whole blood is drawn from one arm and processed in a special cell separator machine to remove the platelets. Then the red cells are returned to the same arm.

Blood never comes in contact with the pheresis machine. All materials used in the pheresis machine are sterile and disposable, and are discarded when the donation is completed. This prevents the transmission of diseases.

Because a closed sterile system is used, individuals are exposed only to their own blood. A person cannot get AIDS or other diseases by donating platelets.

Since the body produces more platelets than it needs, the volume donated has no adverse effect on donors. The side effects experienced by some whole blood donors are avoided. Within a few days of donating platelets, the body replenishes its platelet supply. We usually advise donating once every two weeks. Donors may donate as often as every 48 hours in an emergency situation upon approval of the medical director.

After platelet donation, an individual may resume daily activities, but should avoid heavy lifting for four hours.

Blood typing is done on every collected platelet product, along with all required serology tests listed here. The law requires that all platelet products collected be tested for blood and sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, hepatitis, syphilis, elevated liver enzymes, etc.) before they are transfused. Donors will be notified of any abnormal test results and asked to return to RPCI for further testing and evaluation, at no charge.

Platelet donors may be eligible to become members of the National Marrow Donor Program Registry. As members, donors are showing concern for the hundreds of people needing a BMT. Donors can receive membership information from the Donor Center staff.

HLA typing will be done free of charge after six donations of platelets.