Why you should donate plasma
The contents of blood plasma
Nearly 92 percent of plasma is water, which helps fill up blood vessels. This in turn keeps blood and nutrients moving through the heart and the body. Key materials which include proteins, electrolytes and immunoglobulins make up the remaining 8 percent of plasma. When blood is separated into the four main components, plasma can be seen in the form of light yellow fluid.
What does plasma do?
As mentioned earlier, a main function of plasma is to transport waste products to the kidneys or liver, for onward excretion.
Another function of plasma is its ability to either absorb or release heat as required.
There are two key proteins in plasma, namely:
- Albumin – vital to maintain fluid balance (known as oncotic pressure) in the blood. This fluid balance prevents fluid from leaking into the extremities (hands and feet) and abdominal area.
- Fibrinogen – helps to reduce bleeding, i.e., aids blood clotting. When a person suffers massive blood loss, plasma and fibrinogen is also lost, making it difficult for the blood to clot and stop the bleeding.
Immunoglobulins in plasma help the body to ward off infections.
Electrolytes such as calcium, magnesium, sodium and potassium in the plasma conduct electrical currents through the body.
Insufficient electrolytes in the body may cause seizures, muscle weakness or unusual heart rhythms.
Why should you donate plasma?
People who suddenly lose a tremendous amount of blood, also lose a lot of plasma.
With the important function of fibrinogen in plasma that aids in the clotting of blood, one can understand why excessive plasma loss can lead to death.
The same can be said for plasma’s important ability to maintain body temperature.
During blood donation campaigns, hospitals and blood organizations may collect plasma in addition to whole blood.
How is plasma processed from blood?
When a person donates whole blood, a lab separates the individual blood components (platelets, plasma, red blood cells and white blood cells). Another method is by donating plasma only through a procedure called plasmapheresis.
Blood is drawn directly from a vein into a centrifuge, which separates the blood components and plasma. As plasma is lighter than the other components, it tends to rise to the top during plasmapheresis.
The plasma is retained and the three other components are returned back to the body.
Extracted plasma can be used as needed or stored frozen for up to a year.
Who can be plasma donors?
Plasma donors must meet the general criteria which are:
- between 18 to 69 years of age.
- meet the minimum weight requirement of 110 pounds or 50 kg.
- not for those who donated plasma in the last 28 days.
The 28 day period allows the donor’s body time to heal itself. Healthy people can donate plasma about 13 times a year.
Most needed type of plasma
Plasma from people with blood type AB are universal, i.e., they can be given to patients having any blood type.
A special type of plasma called “convalescent plasma” can be extracted from people who have recovered from a disease, e.g., people who have recovered from the COVID-19 virus. Convalescent plasma contains antibodies that may be used to treat infected individuals. However, there is controversy in the medical field as to whether convalescent plasma really works.
Is plasma donation safe?
The short answer is yes.
Both extraction procedures are safe and relatively easy processes for donors. The procedure must be done in a hospital or accredited blood bank with proper facilities.
Here’s a simple chart that outlines the major differences between whole blood and plasma donations:
You will have to pre-register to donate your plasma and the doctor on duty will run through pre-procedure requirements, the actual procedure, and post-procedure requirements. We hope this article on plasma donation is informative to our readers, though it is not to be taken as any form of medical advice. Please consult a doctor for proper information on plasma donation.
23rd September 2020 20:30
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