What happens to donated blood?

By September 14, 2016Blog
"what happens to your donated blood?" poster

We’ve heard time and time again that giving blood saves lives. It’s simple, right? Giving blood is a way you can help people, and it doesn’t cost you any money, nor does it take too much of your time. But what happens to the blood after you donate it?

Essentially, the process by which donated blood gets to the people who need it involves five steps.

No. 1: Donating blood

  • The person giving blood, or the donor, registers.
  • The donor gives his or her health history and completes a mini physical exam.
  • Medical professionals take about one pint of blood and multiple small test tubes of blood from the donor.
  • The person who takes the blood labels the blood bag, test tubes and the donor record with an identical bar code to keep track of the donation.
  • The blood given by donors is placed in coolers until it is taken to a blood center.

No. 2: Processing blood

  • The blood you gave is scanned into a computer database
  • Most blood is separated into three parts – red cells, platelets and plasma – all the separate components are transfusable.
  • Sometimes, plasma can be broken down even further into something called cryoprecipitate, which is something that forms from blood in really low temperatures.
  • Red cells undergo leukoreduction, which means they are separated from white blood cells.
  • The blood platelets also undergo leukoreduction, as well as testing for bacteria.
  • All the test tubes they collected from you are sent to a lab for more tests.

No. 3: Testing the Blood

  • The test tubes are sent to a national testing laboratory.
  • About 12 different tests are performed on each unit of donated blood. That’s done to determine the donor’s blood type and to make sure the donor doesn’t have any infectious diseases.
  • Within 24 hours, lab technicians send the test results to the manufacturing center.
  • If a donor is found to have an infectious disease, the donated blood is discarded, and then someone tells the donor. Test results are almost always confidential, unless the law specifies otherwise.

No. 4: Storing the Blood

  • Blood that’s ready to be donated is labeled and stored.
  • Red blood cells are kept in coolers at 6ºC (42.8 Fahrenheit) for no more than 42 days.
  • Platelets, on the other hand, are stored at room temperature. They can only be held for up to five days, while plasma and cryo are kept frozen for no more than one year.

No. 5: Shipping the Blood

  • Hospitals call blood centers when they need blood. It can be shipped 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Now that you know the process by which donated blood saves lives, why not schedule your appointment and help save a life today?