Frequently Asked Questions

Automated Red Cells

How long will this donation take?

The donation will take about 35 to 40 minutes and uses a cell separator. Your double red cell donation will take only about 15 to 20 minutes longer than a whole blood donation. The double red cell donation might actually even save you time, because we’ll ask you to donate less frequently.
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Where are automated donations available?

Automated donations are being collected in a growing number of blood centers and mobile drives around the country. Using this state-of-the-art technology puts Virginia Blood Services at the forefront of transfusion medicine.
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Is this type of donation safe?

Just like a whole blood donation, there is no risk of contracting any disease by donating automated red cell products for patients.
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Can I work after donating?

As long as your work does not involve heavy lifting or strenuous activity, there should not be any problem with routine work.
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Why should I donate this way instead of giving whole blood the traditional way?

You will be able to help two patients urgently needing red blood cells because your donation will result in two full therapeutic doses for patients (two units of red cells).

You may be more comfortable with an automated donation because this procedure uses a smaller needle. Virginia Blood Services can selectively collect donor components based on patient needs.

Virginia Blood Services will be able to react more quickly to possible emergencies or crisis.
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What are the requirements to donate an automated red cell donation?

Donors should be in good health, be 16 years old and have a minimum hematocrit of 40 percent. Written parental consent is required for 16-year-old donors.

Men must weigh at least 130 pounds and be at least 5’1″ tall. Women must weigh at least 150 pounds and be at least 5’5″ tall. If you have a specific medical condition or are on medication, please discuss your particular situation with the staff during your medical history interview.
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How often can I donate?

You are eligible to donate every 112 days (or 16 weeks), which is half as often as for a regular whole blood donation.
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Is the screening process different from that of the screening process for whole blood donors?

No. The medical review is the same for both.
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Can I get someone else’s blood with this procedure?

No, as with whole blood donations, each donation is performed using a sterile, individual use, disposable kit. This disposable kit fits in the cell separator and is only used once. After the procedure, it is thrown away. Your blood only comes in contact with the sterile, individual use disposable kit. You cannot get a disease from donating this way.
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Platelets can also be donated via an automated system that returns other components to your body. Platelets promote clotting, and because their shelf life is very short – just five days – they are constantly needed. Platelets are most frequently used to treat cancer patients after chemotherapy, which reduces the blood’s ability to clot. Your platelet donation when given via automated system will allow you to donate enough for a complete patient dose. Platelets, the cells that help blood clot, primarily are transfused to patients who have had bone marrow transplants or to those receiving treatment for cancer, aplastic anemia and other life-threatening illnesses. These patients require multiple transfusions of platelets, essential to keep them alive while their medical treatments—including chemotherapy which destroys healthy cells along with diseased cells—have time to work.

Platelets live outside the body for only five days. This limited lifespan, along with high demand, can result in a shortage of this critical blood component.

It takes four to six whole blood donors to provide as many platelets as one platelet donor can give! Receiving a transfusion from a single platelet donor greatly reduces the patient’s risk of adverse reaction that can occur from exposure to multiple donors.

Donor comfort may be enhanced as the automated procedure uses a smaller needle and fluids are returned to the donor, which reduces the potential for dehydration. A donor’s platelet volume is replenished within 24 to 48 hours after the donation. The procedure is safe—as with whole blood donations, the needles and kits used are sterile and discarded after every donation—and simple… so gentle that donors may give platelets every 7 days or up to 24 times a year!

In about 90 minutes, one donor can conveniently make a profound difference in the life a patient with special needs.

If your blood type is A+, your donation is most needed in the form of platelets, and you can donate every 7 days at these donor centers.
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Plasma is the watery fluid that transports cells. Plasma transfusions replace lost blood volume, help maintain blood pressure and assist in clotting. Plasma can be separated from a whole blood donation or collected as part of an automated procedure. Plasma can be frozen for up to a year and thawed for transfusion use or in the manufacture of vaccines and other lifesaving pharmaceutical products.

If your blood type is AB, your donation of plasma in conjunction with platelets is most needed.
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