When the patient is showing bleeding signs, and his platelet count drops down to an intolerable level, the doctor will usually recommend a platelet transfusion, which is also called platelet concentrates. It is an effective way to replace the lost platelets and normalize its level. However, not all patients with low platelet count are eligible for platelet transfusion.

Although the platelet count can be determined in blood testing, take note that it has no blood type unlike with red blood cells.  Therefore, any healthy individual can be a qualified donor as long as he or she passes the screening and eligibility requirements.

However, in rare cases, a few numbers of patients should only take platelet transfusions from donors who matched their platelets. They have HLA antibodies found in their blood that can destroy the platelets from donors. These elements can develop after an organ transplant, pregnancy, or platelet transfusion as well.

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The primary goal of platelet transfusion is to stop or prevent the occurrence of bleeding that is experienced by people having low platelet count, or a disease called thrombocytopenia. Bleeding is a condition that can be fatal to humans especially if the body can’t tolerate the symptoms of low platelet count anymore.

Two types of platelet transfusions

Pooled random donor platelets – the platelets are gained from centrifuging units of whole blood. This type of platelet transfusion can harvest up to eight units of platelets and are combined in a single bag. Each of these units comes from different donors. The pooled elements expire within four hours so, it is advisable to transfuse it immediately to prevent bacteria from contaminating it.

Apheresis platelets – the platelets come from a single donor, which can harvest four to six pooled units. This concentrate contains 200 to 400 milliliters of plasma. A family member can also donate as long as he or she passes the screening to ensure that the element has no infections. This concentrate can also expire within fours hours but can be stored in an incubator to extend its life.

When to recommend a platelet transfusion

Several factors cause the decrease of production of platelets in the body. The average platelet count should be between 150 to 400 x 109 per liter of blood. It is recommended to transfuse platelets to patients with a platelet count of 20,000 platelets per microliter of blood or less. It is the level in which the individual has a high risk of excessive bleeding.

It is also recommended by medical experts to transfuse platelets if the person with low blood count needs to undergo a surgery or bone marrow aspiration. This procedure can reduce the risk of bleeding during and on a post-surgical operation.

Cancer patients whose bone marrow are not producing enough amount of platelets can also receive a platelet transfusion. This platelet manufacturer can get damaged during the chemotherapy which reduces its capability to create a sufficient amount. The radiation therapy also has an adverse effect in which it destroys the platelets and other cells in the body.

Some symptoms can occur indicating that the patient has an extremely low blood count and he may be subject to platelet transfusion:

  • Bleeding gums and nosebleeds that last for more than 10 minutes
  • Heavy menstrual period
  • Bruising
  • Tiny red blood spots that develop under the skin

The patient will also feel a severe headache, fever, dizziness, blurred vision, and he or she can even collapse. If you have a high temperature, the body will use platelets faster than the average rate.

The bleeding can happen on any sensitive parts of the body. It can be life-threatening if it occurs on head or chest. In this case, the platelet transfusion can be done even the platelet count is higher which is between 30,000 to 50,000 platelets per microliter of blood. It means that the doctor doesn’t have to wait for it to drop lower than the previously mentioned threshold (20,000 platelets per microliter of blood or less) before he recommends the procedure.

How is the platelet transfusion done

The platelet transfusion should be a safe procedure for anyone who needs it. The doctor will provide instructions and details about the steps that need to be done so the patient can fully understand why it is required. Besides, you will be asked to sign a form of consent to ensure that you are aware of this process and you permitted it.

A nurse or a medical practitioner will have to administer the transfusion from start to finish. It is required to bring your identification band to ensure that you will receive the correct platelet product. The platelet transfusion can take as fast as it can during emergency cases. This time, your blood loss can speed up so the medical practitioners will make sure to save your life as quick as possible.

In non-urgent cases, the platelet transfusion can only take 30 to 60 minutes. The nurse will first check your temperature and blood pressure. The nurse will insert a needle in your veins, and you will feel the pain at first prick, but you will soon be comfortable while the transfusion is ongoing.

He or she will make sure that the procedure doesn’t cause you any reactions such as rising temperature, itching, or rashes. If these problems are found while the transfusion is ongoing, he or she will stop it and treat your condition until you feel well.

There is nothing to worry when it comes to receiving platelets from donors you don’t know. All the donated platelets and whole blood are tested and proven to be safe to use. The donors undergo several screening procedures to ensure that their blood doesn’t contain viral infections.

If you have had undergone several platelet transfusions before, it can be possible that your body will become resistant to it. Due to this problem, this procedure might not provide positive results. The doctor will find other alternatives to treat your condition if this situation occurs. He will evaluate the cause of the reaction of your body, or he may recommend platelets that matched yours.


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