When it comes time to donate blood, most people make what is known as a whole-blood donation. Basically, you give us 500 ml (about a pint) of your blood.
With just one major exception, your whole blood donation with us will be separated into three major “components” or parts – red cells, platelets and plasma – because since the 1970s, doctors have been trained to give components to patients, to more readily target specific conditions.
But what are those conditions?
Most transfusions of red cells go to patients who are showing signs of anemia, when their red cells aren’t carrying enough oxygen around the body.
Platelets often go to patients with severe bleeding. Others might have conditions in which their bodies can’t produce enough platelets on their own because they have a blood cancer like leukemia or lymphoma.
Patients receive plasma when they are bleeding and having trouble clotting. Trauma patients and massively bleeding patients need the clotting factors in plasma to keep them from bleeding.