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A few months ago I showed up to donate blood and said I was willing to do any type of donation. I ended up getting dragged into donating platelets instead, which I admit I hadn't even realized was an option. I'm trying to donate platelets more, now that I realize I can do it in between whole blood donations, though I admit I find the whole process far more annoying then whole blood.

However, what I find odd is how I've gotten far more pressure to come back to donate platelets then I ever did donating red blood, and the first time the clearly pushed me to donating platelets over whole blood even when I really didn't know anything about it and just going along to help out however they wanted me to.

This last time I showed up I told them that I thought I was due to donate whole blood, and if so wanted to do whole blood since I didn't have time for platelets, but would donate platelets if I wasn't due for whole blood. Again they seemed very eager to get me to donate platelets, to the point of seeming really disappointing when I ended up donating whole blood.

It's inconvenient, to say the least, to loose so much time multiple times a month, I'm happy to do it to help, but I'd at least like to have an idea of exactly how much I am helping when I do it.

So, is there a reason they seem so eager to get platelet donations? Would it do more good to never donate whole blood and only ever do platelets? Can anyone give me an estimation of how much good a platelet donation does on average (not the best case, but the average case of each donation from a B+ donor)?

edit:

To try to make this easier I finally sat down and tried to answer another question of mine: how many 'lives' are saved from one donation of blood? See my answer to it. The numbers are not guaranteed by me, I am a layman who doesn't really know much about the medicine behind the statistics I looked up, but it may give an answer some basis for comparison of the two options; IF they assume any of my numbers are right.

  • Hi! This is a really interesting question that I'd really like to see answered, which is why I am going to add a bounty to it. I shortened the text so the questions are clearer - if you don't agree with the edit, feel free to revert all or parts of it! – YviDe Dec 1 '15 at 9:22
  • I have no problem with the edit. Though I'm wondering if I will get a good answer. I've tried a few times to get an estimate for just how much good a whole blood donation does with little success, I'm starting to think few actually understand how the blood is divided and utilized, at least well enough to give a good idea on the affect here. It sort of became a moot point anyways, apparently they don't like my platelets so I'm back to only whole blood lol. – dsollen Dec 1 '15 at 17:03
  • @YviDe bah. reminding me of these questions was not good. Now I went and wasted time trying to answer one of my questions; more then I should have lol. Your welcome to modify the above question again; I know I suck at writing questions, but I thought the link I added may help...assuming any of my linked answer is actually correct lol. – dsollen Dec 1 '15 at 19:17
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+100

I don't know if anyone can give a definite answer as to why these folks so badly wanted you to donate platelets over whole blood, but there are many possible reasons.

  1. Platelets give you more bang for your buck. According to the American Red Cross, one session of platelet apheresis can collect enough platelets for one or two transfusions. On the other hand, it can take anywhere from four to six donations of whole blood to get the same amount of platelets.
  2. Platelets are always needed, at high rates. The first point is important, because those who use platelets often use them in bulk (some organ transplant patients need up to 30 units worth1 - see a page from University Health System).
  3. Platelets have a short shelf life. Blood Centers of America states that even with some processing, platelets need to be transfused within about five days after the donation, meaning that waiting can cause the loss of an entire donation. There is a constant need for refills (for lack of a better word). Even this narrow window has been modified in the past, shrinking or growing (see Sireis et al. (2011)).
  4. Platelets are used for cancer patients. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says that patients who are suffering from leukemia or have just had a bone marrow transplant may have low platelet levels. The transfusions can be essential - life-saving.
  5. People might not like donation platelets.[Citation needed!] This one is a complete guess on my part, but platelet donation can take a long time, as you said. People are averse to donating blood for many reasons; as you stated, the long donation session for platelets only makes this worse. You've shown that you were willing in the past to go through with this, so the blood donation center probably thinks that you're more likely to do it again.

1 One donation can give about 6-8 -"units". See the Johns Hopkins Pathology page on platelets for more information.

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  • I feel like you may be missing an important part to address. You address the need for plattelets, but your #1 point ignores the other benefits of whole blood. While it provides a fraction of the platelets it provides red blood cells and plasma as well, and can be transfused as whole blood without being broken into sub-components if needed. I'm sure platelet donations provides more platelets, but what I don't know is how does the good of the other components compare to platelets, can more plasma and red blood cells make up for less platelets? – dsollen Dec 1 '15 at 16:58
  • I promise few like donating platelets more then whole blood. Having to sit still for 1.5 hours is surprisingly horrible, not able to itch your own nose or turn a page in a book etc. It's worse for me because I'm not a movie person; the one entertainment activity available to me, and generally lack patients for inactivity. However, I can donate 4 times as much with platelets as whole blood, so one person willing to do it can make up for a few who won't. I'm sure there are still fewer platelet donations then whole blood even with that though. – dsollen Dec 1 '15 at 17:00
  • I added a link in my question, it may help with the comparison between the options; just if you were interested. – dsollen Dec 1 '15 at 19:15
  • @dsollen Okay, I'll think this all over. – HDE 226868 Dec 1 '15 at 21:42

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