Platelets are tiny, corpuscular elements in the blood that are critical to the control of bleeding. Many patients develop platelet shortages from illness, and others do as a result of chemotherapy, radiation or cardiac surgery. In order to treat all these groups, it is necessary to provide platelet transfusions.
Years ago, the only way to collect enough platelets for a transfusion was to take blood donations from many donors, separate the platelets from the other blood cells, and combine the platelets into one transfusion. Today, blood cell separators allow collection of enough platelets for transfusion from a single donor. In a process called apheresis, blood is drawn from the donor into an instrument that separates the blood into separate portions by centrifugation. Platelets can be recovered, while the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.
Though the procedure takes somewhat more time than whole blood donation, it is a simple, safe process. Because the body starts replenishing platelets immediately after donation, a donor's platelets are completely replenished within about 48 hours. This means that platelet donors can give platelets up to two dozen times per year. At the Blood Donor Center at NYHQ, an individual may donate again after 72 hours.
Do not take aspirin for 72 hours prior to donating platelets.