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How does blood plasma donation work?

Plasma donation works differently from blood donation. When you give blood plasma, your blood is separated into blood cells and blood plasma. Your blood cells are returned to your body.

Plasma donation has four steps

  1. A vein is cannulated in one arm. Your blood is collected in a machine using a sterile, disposable system.
  2. This machine separates the blood into cells and plasma.
  3. The plasma is collected and stored.
  4. The blood cells are returned to your body via the system.

The procedure for collecting and returning (except for the venous cannulation, of course) is repeated a few times during a plasma donation session. This way, we collect slightly over half litre of plasma.

The differences with blood donation

  • Plasma donation is less of a burden to the body.
  • Plasma donation takes a longer than blood donation, about 45 minutes.
  • You can donate plasma more often than you donate blood: every 14 days, no more than 26 times per year.
  • Plasma donations are done by appointment.
  • Because a machine is reserved for every donor, it is important that you attend on time and cancel if you cannot make it.
  • You can make a new appointment immediately after donating. Plasma donors are sent a confirmation card for the appointment.

Possible disadvantages

  • Clotting of the blood cells in the system is prevented by the addition of a solution of sodium citrate. When the blood cells are returned to your body, some of the citrate enters your blood stream. This may cause some tingling around your mouth or nausea because this substance temporarily lowers the calcium level in your blood. This is called a citrate reaction. The donor assistant can quickly solve this problem by setting the machine at a lower speed. Sodium citrate itself is harmless and  broken down quickly by the body.
  • The combination of the longer time the donation takes and the fact that the blood cells are returned to your body makes the risk of bruising at the venipuncture site slightly higher.
  • After years of donations, some plasma donors get scarring in the fold of their elbow. Getting access to the vein then becomes increasingly  difficult. The donor assistant will let you know if this is the case.

It is of course very unfortunate that these adverse effects sometimes happen. We will do our best to prevent these.

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