Platelets are important elements of the human body. It plays major functions to maintain a good body system. It helps to heal open and bleeding wounds to form blood clots in our body. Some people are suffering from low platelet count known as the thrombocytopenia. If not given an immediate action, it may lead to situations that can affect your overall health.
Fortunately, there is a solution to help people who have low platelet count. We are talking about platelet donation. Platelets donations are very beneficial especially for cancer patients and others who face deathly injuries and illnesses. It is also necessary for an organ transplant and surgical procedures. It is a helpful procedure wherein the platelets are removed from the donor’s blood through a process known as apheresis. In this procedure, the centrifuge divides the blood into four components namely platelets, plasma, red blood cells and white blood cells.
Only the platelets are removed, and the other blood components are returned to the donor. In the process, sodium citrate is added to the apheresis machine to keep blood clotting in the machine. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it is recommended for people not to make more than 24 donations a year. However, there is evidence that donating platelets is safe.
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It is important for you to be aware of the side effects of platelet donation. During platelet transfusion, you must be aware of the symptoms that indicate complications. These side effects are summed up in the following examples.
Rash or fever
It is among the most common complications on platelet donation. It approximately happens around 1 out of 10 transfusions. Most of the time, fever is the result of inflammatory proteins known as the cytokines. It can also result from an immune response that is directed against the white blood cells, which incidentally transfused with platelets. In this case, there is nothing to worry about fever because there is an anti-fever medication and slowing the transfusion. Seldom, fever can show bacterial contamination and severe bacterial infection.
Similar to all blood products, platelets are screened carefully for infectious disease before use. Thus, it can still transmit the infection to a transfused patient. These infections may contain different bacteria, and viruses like hepatitis B, human immunodeficiency virus, as well as hepatitis C. Bacterial contamination, may also happen as many as 1 in various thousand platelet donations. It may lead to serious and fatal infections around 1 out of 100,000 people. The risk of viral infections is around 1 out of several hundred thousand to 1 in millions, based on the virus transferred.
Lung dysfunction or injury
Platelet donation can result in transfusion-associated lung injury or TRALI. It is the main symptom wherein there is a shortness of breath. The cause of TRALI is incompletely understood, but it can be related to biologically active substances that are incidentally transfused along with platelet transfusions. The substances are the reason for the leaking of fluid and inflammatory mediators in the lung area. These substances interfere with oxygen exchange. In severe cases, injuries can be deadly. The incidence of TRALI is estimated around 1 out of 1,500 to 1 in tens of thousands of transfusions. In most cases, stopping the transfusion and administering oxygen are the best solutions.
When it comes to platelet donation, allergic reactions can happen in response to proteins in transfused platelet units. Mild allergic reactions happen in approximately about 1 out of 100 transfusions. It usually comes with itching sensation and rashes. However, these symptoms can be treated by temporarily stopping the transfusion and taking antihistamine medication.
A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can happen in around 1 out of 40,000 transfusions. Anaphylaxis is characterized by shock and difficulty in breathing that can lead to loss of consciousness and even death. More often, it can be early treated with injection medications.
Every unit of transfused platelets gives a few amounts of volume to your blood circulation. However, transfusion-associated circulatory overload or TACO is seldom to happen in a single transfusion of platelets. If you require several transfusions, with different blood products, then TACO is likely to occur. Shortness of breath is the central symptom of TACO. The best treatment for this includes restricting fluid intake, stopping the transfusion and providing diuretics to facilitate the kidney’s fluid loss.
There are exceptions when it comes to platelet donation. Pregnant women with Rh-factor negative must also receive platelets from Rh-factor negative donors. Thus, when they receive platelets from Rh-positive donors, they can develop antibodies against the Rh-factor that can cause severe complications for the fetus in succeeding pregnancies.
On the other hand, immunosuppressed patients may also be at risk during platelet transfusion. Thus, they can develop graft-versus-host disease, which is a fatal disorder that happens when the donor of white blood cells are transfused to an immunocompromised receiver. Luckily, this problem can be prevented through irradiation of donor platelets before the transfusion.
The side effects of platelet donations can also present with these symptoms: itching, fever, and rash, shaking, and swelling of the tongue or throat, chills, back pain, nausea, headache, shortness of breath, vomiting, and feeling faint or lightheaded. If you suffer from one of these complications, then immediately see a nurse or doctor to avoid more health complications.
Is platelet donation safe?
In platelet transfusion process, your blood stays inside a sterile tubing system. It is never in contact with the equipment used for your platelet transfusion. Platelet donation is proven to be a safe procedure. Thus, all of the bags, tubing, and the needle used for the platelet collection are sterile, new and used only once for you. After use, the whole disposable kit is discarded.
Collection of plasma is also possible during platelet donation
During your platelet donation, plasma collection is also possible. Plasma is comprised of 92% water, 7% of essential proteins like gamma globulin, albumin, anti-hemophilic factor and other factors of clotting, and 1 % of mineral salts, fats, sugars, vitamins, and hormones. Plasma is an important element to keep an individual’s blood pressure. It also assists in clotting. It is necessary for the treatment of burn patients, shock and bleeding disorders.
How long it takes for platelet donation
Your actual platelet donation is approximately 75 minutes. However, you must allow a maximum of at least two hours from the registration process through refreshments.
Platelets can be collected from whole blood donation
Taking platelets during a whole blood donation is possible. However, if you will take a platelet transfusion with the use of automated technology, you contribute 6 to 10 times the total of platelets which can be obtained from the whole blood transfusion.
The patient who needs platelets requires that amount of time for a treatment. So, instead of having a 6 or 10 blood donors, it will only take one platelet donor to offer a patient with a platelet treatment.
Platelet Donation Procedure
A platelet donation feels like as a whole blood donation. A few amounts of blood is taken from your arm with the use of a sterile, new single needle. The blood takes a spin in the centrifuge to divide the platelets from other blood components.
The platelets can be collected in a separate bag, and the remainder of your blood is returned to you. This cycle is repeated as many times to produce the platelets volume requirement. More importantly, the eligibility standards for the platelet donation are the same to the whole blood except for the platelet donations wherein you are asked to refrain from aspirin or products that contain aspirin for 48 hours before donation.
The Importance of platelets to patients
With the help of platelet donation, patients can benefit to improve their present health condition. Platelets are very brittle and short-lived blood cells that are crucial for normal blood clotting. These cells must be transfused within five days of donation to offer hospitals with a fresh supply of platelets on a daily basis.
Platelets donation is beneficial for the treatment of:
- Cancer patients
- Patients with blood disorders
- Victims of accident
- Bone marrow transplant patients
Health conditions like leukemia and medical treatments such as chemotherapy can reduce an individual’s platelet count. If the number of platelets continues to decrease, bleeding can happen. Even small bleeding can be very dangerous especially if it occurs in the brain.
That is why platelet donation is needed. It is important to save thousands of lives who are suffering from various fatal diseases. Platelet donation is a life-saving procedure that needs extra carefulness to produce affirmative results. It is very important for the treatment of aplastic anemia, AIDS, ITP, hypersplenism, sepsis, radiation treatment and other surgeries like a cardiopulmonary bypass.
Changed platelet functions
Disorders in platelet function can be acquired or inherited. Most of these disorders are mild and can respond to therapy with desmopressin (dDAVP.) Cardiopulmonary bypass surgery can lead to the destruction of a big part of the patient’s platelets which can cause it to be dysfunctional.
Who can donate platelets?
Those who are registered as plasma donors can also donate platelets as long as they are healthy and don’t take medications that can affect their platelets. In general, the platelet donor must:
- Have at least one successful plasma donation in the previous 12 months
- Male donors must be aged between 18 to 70 years old and weigh over 50 kg
- Never had a recent dental work
- Haven’t taken aspirin seven days before or other anti-inflammatory medications three days before the donation
- Don’t have any current abrasion, cuts, rashes, and sores
- Never had current diarrhea, gastric upset, vomiting and abdominal pain
- Don’t travel in the previous four months to a country having malarial risk
- Have enough of liquid in the 24 hours before the platelet donation, especially in warm weather, and drink three glasses of juice/water within 3 hours before visiting the Blood Donor Center
There are also conditions that may affect platelet donation. If you want to donate platelet, you must be eligible. All platelet donors will be given with oral calcium supplements before their donation. Within 24 hours before the platelet donation, you must involve magnesium, calcium, and potassium-rich food in your diet like dates, bananas, cashews, spinach dairy products and more.
Healthy individuals can donate platelets every 2 to 4 weeks. Thus, platelets are substituted within few days on every donation. There will be a reduced risk of iron depletion as the red blood cells are returned. To check whether your platelet count is sufficient, regular blood tests will are conducted.
Other effects associated with a platelet donation
A few amounts of anticoagulant (an anti-clotting agent) is combined with every withdrawal of blood to avoid clotting in the tubing, and some of these go back to the donor with non-platelet components. Sometimes, it can cause a minor tingling sensation in the nose and lips. That is only a mild reaction to the anticoagulant after the process is completed. The process can be stopped earlier if there is any concerning reaction that may occur. You will be under the supervision of a trained nurse throughout the platelet donation.
Other side effects of platelet donation include blood pressure changes, fatigue, dizziness, and complications with vein access. There are effects of the anticoagulant on the donor’s level of calcium. Venous access problems can result in bruising known as a hematoma.
During a platelet donation, the supply of calcium antacid tablets is used to replenish the loss of calcium. Thus, the anticoagulant works through binding to the calcium in the blood and reduces the calcium ions in the donation process.
The lips begin to tingle, and there is a metallic taste since the calcium allows the function of the nervous system. During the donation procedure, low calcium can lead to more serious complications like nerve irritation, fainting, and short duration tetany.
Adverse conditions may happen during the platelet donation. These conditions include hematoma formation, hypocalcemia, and vasovagal reactions. However, these can be prevented through pre-donation education and change of apheresis machine configuration.