The Donation Process

The Platelet Donation Process

A cuff is placed around your arm, the skin cleaned and the donation needle inserted. Blood samples are taken at this stage for testing in the same way as whole blood donations. Additional tests carried out for platelet donors including checking your platelet count and determining your tissue type (so that your platelets can be matched to those of a particular patient if needed).

During the procedure, blood is withdrawn, mixed with anticoagulant to prevent clotting and processed by spinning to separate the platelets. The rest of the blood is returned to you, which is why it is safe for you to donate at a much higher frequency than whole blood during the procedure, any white cells that remain in your platelet donation are also removed as these could cause problems in a patient despite being harmless to you. All the tubing that blood comes into contact with is sterile and disposable. There is, therefore, no risk of 'catching' any infection. Also, during the return of your blood, air detectors ensure that none of the sterile air present in the collection gets passed into your vein. If a detector identifies air, the machine will automatically shut down and can only be restarted when the air has been removed.

While you are donating you will be monitored and cared for by qualified staff supervised by nurses. You can read, chat to the staff or relax and you will be offered refreshments. When the procedure is completed the needle will be removed and a dressing applied to the venepuncture site. Following the donation you will be able to take a well earned break in our rest area and enjoy some more refreshment if you wish.

The donation process illustration
What can I do after donating platelets?
We hope that you will make another appointment and on leaving the blood donor centre, you can return to your normal activities (with the same restrictions that apply after whole blood donation). If at any stage in the procedure you suffer discomfort and wish to discontinue a donation please inform the staff.
What are the potential side effects?
  • As with whole blood donation, bruising or fainting can occur.
  • Each time you donate, 80-100ml of blood is lost for sampling and in the tubing. Your blood will be tested at every visit to make sure you are not anaemic and to check your platelet count.
  • To avoid clotting during the donation an anticoagulant is automatically added as your blood flows into the machine. A small proportion of this citrate solution is returned to you and mixed with your own red cells.
  • Although it is immediately neutralised on return to you, occasionally it can cause a tingling sensation around the mouth and fingers, or a metallic taste or feeling of vibration. This is not dangerous and provided you inform the staff supervising the donation, it is easily overcome by adjusting the machine settings.
  • Very occasionally some donors remark that their arm feels cold when the red cells are returned but the majority of donors have no sensation of the blood being returned at all.
  • As with all automated equipment, the cell separator machine may, occasionally not operate properly. But these machines have comprehensive fail safe devices to protect donors. If a machine does fail, one possibility is that the blood left in the machine will not be returned to you. The maximum you would lose in this event, is equivalent to half a blood donation (230ml) and is harmless, but you will have to wait for 4 weeks before you can donate platelets again.
  • And Finally..... Do remember that as a volunteer you may withdraw from the programme at any time if you wish. However if you do find that platelet donation is not for you, we very much hope you will return to donating whole blood.

For further information contact 0300 123 23 23