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Types of Donations

Blood may be transfused as whole blood or as one of its components. Because our patients seldom require all of the components of whole blood, it makes sense to transfuse only that portion needed by the patient for a specific condition or disease or to counter the effects of their treatment. Our donor center uses a number of donation processes in order to meet the needs of our special patient population.

The primary types of blood donation are platelets, whole blood, granulocytes (by physician order only), and bone marrow (not completed by the Blood Donor Center). St. Jude does not provide payment for any type of blood product donation.

Main Types of Blood Donation

  1. Apheresis instrument

    Time: Approximately 2 hours

    Special Restrictions:
    To donate platelets, you must meet the same physical examination and donor history requirements as for a whole blood donation. In addition, you must refrain from taking aspirin and aspirin-containing products (i.e. Anacin®, Bufferin®, BC Powder®) for 48 hours prior to donating platelets.  Aspirin and aspirin-containing products render the platelets ineffective and not useful for the therapy in which they are intended. Call the donor center to determine if your pain reliever contains aspirin.

    Time between donations: 7 days

    You may donate platelets once every 7 days but no more than 24 times annually.

    Platelets are fragments of large cells produced in the bone marrow. When platelets are released in the bloodstream, they help the blood clotting process by adhering to the lining of blood vessels and act as the body’s “internal” band-aid. A normal, healthy individual has a platelet range of 150,000 to 400,000. Platelets survive in the circulatory system for about 9 to 10 days after which they are removed by the spleen. For children receiving chemotherapy, their platelet count may drop below 10,000, which can lead to dangerous blood loss from physical trauma or blood vessel leakage that would otherwise occur in the course of normal, daily activity.

    At St. Jude, platelets are collected by a process called apheresis, or platelet pheresis. In this process, blood is drawn from the donor and separated into its components inside of the pheresis instrument. The instrument uses centrifugation to separate the red blood cells, plasma and platelets into different layers. The platelets are then retained while the instrument returns the red blood cells and plasma to the donor. This cycle continues until a unit of platelets has been collected.

    The resulting platelet unit is highly concentrated, containing 6 to 10 times as many platelets that can be obtained from a single, whole blood unit. The platelet product has a shelf life of 5 days.

  2. Whole blood cells

    Time: Approximately 30 minutes.

    Special Restrictions: Donor must meet all physical examination and donor history requirements.

    Time between donations: 8 weeks 

    A typical whole blood donation will remove approximately one pint of blood from the donor. Unlike a pheresis donation, the different components of blood (red cells, plasma, platelets) are removed but are not separated.

    Adult males have about 12 pints of blood circulating while adult females have about 9 pints. Your body can replenish the fluid lost from donation in about 24 hours.

    The red blood cells that are depleted via donation are replaced by the body in a few weeks. The shelf life of a whole blood unit is 42 days.

  3. The Blood Donor Center at St. Jude does not harvest bone marrow donations.  These donations are managed by the Bone Marrow Transplant unit.

Facts regarding blood product donation at St. Jude:

  • All products collected at the St. Jude Blood Donor Center go directly to St. Jude patients.
  • By donating blood products at St. Jude, you help the hospital to offset the cost of having to purchase blood products from sources outside of the hospital.
  • The cost involved in the purchase of one unit of platelets from an outside provider costs the hospital between $500-$700: a whole blood unit cost approximately $250.
  • About 800 blood product transfusions are performed during a typical month at St. Jude.
  • A patient whose treatment involves a bone marrow transplant will typically require 20 units of whole blood and 120 units of platelets during the course of their treatment.

Whatever type of donation you choose to make, know that you can directly help a child at St. Jude.