How Does Donating Plasma Work? (2024)

Plasma is the liquid component of blood. It contains salt, enzymes, antibodies, proteins, and clotting factors. Donated plasma is a life-saving resource that can be used to treat people with cancer, burns, trauma, and some serious chronic health conditions.

People wishing to donate plasma undergo a screening process that includes testing for infectious diseases. In addition, a donor needs to provide proof of identity and address. Financial compensation is typically offered but varies between donation centers.

This article will discuss the screening process and procedure for plasma donation. It will also explain how donated plasma is used.

How Does Donating Plasma Work? (1)

Screening Process for Donating Plasma

Plasma donors must be at least 18 years old and in good health. You must also weigh at least 110 pounds. Plasma donors must provide a valid ID and proof of address.

Donation criteria vary by center but are always geared toward safety for the donor and donation recipients. Towards that end, you'll undergo a medical exam that tests for transmissible viruses such as hepatitis and HIV. To make sure you're healthy enough to donate, your protein and hemoglobin levels will also be tested.

You'll be asked to complete a written medical history screening questionnaire. The questions you're asked may vary, but typically include information about:

  • Medical history
  • Medications you take
  • Travel history
  • Recent medical procedures and surgeries
  • Pregnancy status
  • Recent vaccination history
  • Recent piercings and tattoos
  • Recreational drug use, especially if needles are used
  • Sexual activity and history
  • Risk level for transmissible diseases like HIV
  • Blood transfusion and transplant history

Centers require you to undergo two health screenings and get negative test results for infectious diseases twice within six months before your plasma can be used.

In some instances, you may be disqualified as a plasma donor after going through the screening process. For example, you won't be able to donate plasma now or in the future if you have an underlying health condition, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, or HIV.

Activities such as having sex for money or having sex with a high-risk partner or partners will also disqualify you.

You may be temporarily disqualified as a plasma donor if your medical exam indicates that you can't safely donate due to conditions like high blood pressure or pregnancy.

Preferred Blood Type for Plasma Donation

Donations are needed by people with any blood type. The four major blood types are A, B, AB, and O. AB plasma can be given to people who have any blood type. For that reason, AB plasma donors are highly sought after. Only 4% of the U.S. population has type AB blood.

What Is Donating Plasma Like?

The procedure for donating plasma is a lot like donating blood. However, be prepared for a longer process. First-time donors can expect to spend around two hours undergoing screening and donating. Subsequent donations usually take 90 minutes or less.

Before You Go

Some plasma donation centers require appointments, but others may accept you as a walk-in. Identify the center you will be going to, and contact them to determine their requirements and procedures.

The night before you go, make sure to get enough sleep. Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages, as these can be dehydrating. Smoking cigarettes and using nicotine products should also be avoided.

Avoid eating high-fat food the day before and the morning of your donation. Greasy or fatty foods can adversely affect plasma quality by generating excess fats or lipids in the blood. Instead, opt for foods rich in protein and iron.

Drink plenty of water or juice, so you're well hydrated. Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages like coffee or cola, which can dehydrate you, in the hours leading up to your donation.

Make sure to dress comfortably for your appointment.

During

The plasma donation process is called plasmapheresis. You will be given a screening test each time before undergoing plasmapheresis. This ensures that you are healthy enough to donate plasma and continue to meet eligibility requirements.

A technician will help you get ready for the procedure. You may wear your own clothing, provided your arm is easily accessible. Your vital signs will be taken, and a vein check may be done to ensure a suitable vein can be found.

During plasmapheresis, you will remain in a comfortable semi-reclining or seated position. The process can take one to two hours, so make sure to void your bladder prior to beginning.

Typically, a single needle is placed into a vein in your arm. This doesn't hurt most people, but you may feel pressure or a slight stinging sensation.

Blood will be drawn through the needle and sent through a plasmapheresis machine. This machine separates and collects plasma. Your red and white blood cells and platelets will be returned to your body (usually through the same needle), along with a small amount of saline solution. In some instances, you may be given fluids to drink during the procedure.

During the procedure, you will be monitored to ensure you remain safe and comfortable.

The amount of plasma removed from your blood will be determined by multiple factors, including your weight. The more you weigh, the more plasma you can donate. One plasma donation may provide between 625 to 800 milliliters.

After

After the procedure, you will remain under observation for around 15 minutes to assess your recovery and make sure you feel well. You'll be given a snack and a beverage, such as juice, to drink during that time. After recovery, you may leave the facility on your own.

Where to Go for Plasma Donations

The Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association (PPTA) maintains a national database of plasma donation centers you can access by zip code. These centers may provide compensation for plasma donation.

Many plasma donation centers advertise for donors online. If you choose, you can look for local centers in your area through a web search or by asking your healthcare provider for a recommendation.

How Plasma Payments Work

Most, though not all, plasma donation centers provide compensation to donors. The dollar amount each offers varies. In some instances, you may be offered a first-time donor bonus as an enticement to donate at a particular center.

Donation centers usually include information about compensation on their websites. You can also call and ask them for clarification about payments.

Some donors earn hundreds of dollars on a monthly basis. These earnings are typically uploaded onto prepaid credit cards supplied to you by the donation center.

The earnings you get from donating plasma are considered income that must be reported to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on your annual tax return. Keep a record of your earnings for that purpose.

The American Red Cross does not provide compensation for plasma or blood donations. To donate plasma, you can contact the American Red Cross by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS. You can also schedule an appointment online.

When Can You Go Again?

Once you become qualified as a plasma donor, you can set up a donation schedule with the center of your choosing.

Plasma can only be used after your second donation. You must return to the same center to donate a second time within six months of your first donation. You are not required to donate more than twice.

Plasma donation protocols, including how often you're able to donate, are determined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). If you choose to, you can donate plasma twice weekly, provided that you wait 48 hours between each appointment.

Is Donating Plasma Safe?

Plasma donation centers must be certified to operate. Donating plasma in a certified center is considered to be a safe experience. Severe or fatal reactions to donating plasma are unlikely and have very rarely been reported.

Side Effects

Most people feel fine and do not experience side effects after donating plasma. However, side effects, both mild and serious, are possible.

Common side effects include:

  • Bruising or bleeding at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

More serious side effects are less common, but can include:

  • Fainting
  • Infection
  • Severe adverse reactions

How Donating Plasma Helps

Plasma is used to create therapies that support and sustain life for people with trauma, burns, cancer, and certain rare diseases.

Plasma protein therapies include:

  • Blood clotting factors for people with bleeding disorders
  • Albumin therapy for burn and trauma victims
  • Immunoglobulin for immune deficiency disorders
  • Hyperimmune globulins for treating organ transplant recipients, people with conditions like tetanus and rabies, and pregnant people with Rh incompatibility
  • Alpha-1 antitrypsin (AAT) for AAT deficiency (a genetic condition associated with lung damage)

Summary

Plasma, a pale yellow liquid, is the largest component found in the blood. Plasma donations are used to produce life-saving therapies for burn and trauma victims and people with serious chronic diseases, including cancer.

The procedure for donating plasma is similar to that for blood donation. However, it is a longer process. To become a plasma donor, you will undergo a medical screening each time.

Being a plasma donor can be highly rewarding and gratifying. Many plasma donation centers also pay compensation to donors for providing this service.

How Does Donating Plasma Work? (2024)
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