Blood as it is collected from the donor via a vein is almost never used directly for blood transfusion. Patients often only need a specific part of the blood.
A patient only receives the component that he requires. This prevents unnecessary side-effects. The remaining components can be used by other patients. This allows your blood to help more patients.
Separation of blood into three components
After collection, a centrifuge separates your blood into three components: red blood cells (erythrocytes), plasma and platelets (thrombocytes). When the blood is spun around, the heaviest components sink to the bottom, and the lightest ones stay on top.
The red blood cells are the heaviest, and are left pushed together in the bottom of the bag. Blood plasma, which consists mostly of water, is light and stays at the top. The platelets and white blood cells form a thin layer between the red blood cells and the plasma, the so-called buffy coat.
A collection bag consists of three smaller bags that are connected with each other via tubes. After centrifugation, the blood components can easily be separated by transferring them from one bag to the other. Everything remains sterile, because the collection bag is not opened.
In the end, three bags remain: one with red blood cells, one with blood plasma, and one with platelets.
Your blood helps patients
Red blood cells go to patients who have lost a lot of blood, for example after an accident or during major surgery, and to patients who cannot make enough red blood cells, for example people with a bone marrow condition.
Blood plasma is administered to patients with burns or severe blood loss. We also create important medicines using blood plasma.
Most platelets go to patients with malignant blood diseases, like leukaemia. These patients undergo chemotherapy that kills the bone marrow which creates platelets. As a result, during chemotherapy these patients often suffer from serious platelet deficiency. Donor platelets allow patients to safely weather this dangerous period.
A portion of the blood donation is sometimes used for research with the purpose of improving blood transfusion and the treatment of diseases. If you do not want your blood to be used for this, you can register an objection. Sometimes the entire blood donation will be used for research. In this case, we will ask for your written permission.
Want to know more?
- What is my blood made of?
- Stories of patients saved by donor blood