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7 months ago
Plasma donation: here’s what you need to know

Our whole blood is made up of cellular components (red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets) and liquid component i.e. plasma, which contains plasma proteins (albumin, immunoglobulin) and clotting factors like fibrinogen. Dr Jayashree D. Kulkarni, Consultant Pathologist, Columbia Asia Referral Hospital, Yeshwanthpur says that this plasma component is used for fractionation to make clotting factors, albumin and immunoglobulins are used in patient treatment, for which companies are willing to pay donors. But is it really healthy to do so? Dr Kulkarni begs to differ.

Plasma donation: Whole blood donated is separated into packed red blood cells, platelets and fresh frozen plasma. While red cells and platelets have a short life of 35 days and 5 days respectively, the plasma can be stored for 1 year at minus 400 c. This leads to excess plasma in blood banks. This unused plasma can be used for fractionation and hence plasma donation is not so talked about.

How many times can a healthy adult donate plasma? In an occasional plasmapheresis, donors undergo the process once every 12 weeks. In serial plasmapheresis program, where other cellular components are returned back to the donor, the minimum interval should be of 48 hours between two procedures and not more than two procedures in a week should be allowed.

Things to keep in mind before and after donating plasma: In a serial plasmapheresis donor, before plasma donation, the haemoglobin and/or haematocrit should be > 12 g/dl and or Hct of 36% and total serum protein should not be below 6.0 gm/dl. It should be tested before the 3rd collection if done within 4 weeks.

Here’s why you SHOULD NOT donate plasma:
- It decreases your calcium stores — Anticoagulant (citrate) is mixed with the blood collected in the plasma-separating machine before the blood is returned to donor’s body during plasma donation to prevent blood clots from forming. Some citrate will enter the bloodstream and binds together calcium molecules. Signs of a citrate reaction include numbness or tingling, especially in the lips, fingers, and toes, feeling vibrations throughout the body, experiencing a metallic taste, chills, shivering, light-headedness, muscle twitching, a rapid or slow pulse, shortness of breath. If these symptoms are left untreated, they may become more severe. Severe symptoms include spasms, vomiting, shock, irregular pulse, cardiac arrest.

- It can leave you very dehydrated – Plasma contains a lot of water. For that reason, some people experience dehydration after donating plasma. Dehydration after donating plasma is usually not severe.

- It is highly risky if unregulated — Like any procedure, it has to be regulated and a maximum of 500 ml plasma can be drawn.

- It can be tiring for your body and can leave you fatigued. – Fatigue can occur if the body’s levels of nutrients and salts are low. Side effect after plasma donation is usually that on experiences fatigue, but it’s usually mild. It leaves a negative effect on an individual’s long-term health. Some studies of plasma proteins have generally shown that the levels of total serum protein, immunoglobulin, albumin and globulin, and possible iron storage, are lower in experienced donors undergoing frequent plasmapheresis.

- It can even cause infection – Any time a needle is used to pierce the skin, there is always a small risk of infection, if adequate antiseptic precautions are not taken. Punctured skin tissue allows bacteria from outside the body to get in. The needle may carry bacteria not only beneath the skin’s surface but into a vein. This can lead to an infection at the injection site and surrounding body tissue or in the blood.

- It can often lead to bruising and discomfort – Bruises form when blood flows into soft tissues. This can happen when a needle punctures a vein and a small amount of blood leaks out. Bruises go away in days or weeks for most people.

Image source: Shutterstock

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