How donating blood and plasma saves lives


by Baylor Scott & White Health

Apr 24, 2021

Our blood is an incredibly complex mixture of cells and fluid, responsible for transporting important nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide and waste products to and away from cells.

Many characteristics of blood and its composition can be broken down into red blood cells, platelets and the liquid portion called plasma.

“Blood is composed of both cells (red blood cells and platelets) and plasma,” said Walter J. Linz, MD MBA, a pathologist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Marble Falls who specializes in transfusion medicine. “Plasma is the liquid portion that contains proteins such as coagulation factors, which are essential to blood clotting. The cell either transports oxygen or helps with clotting (platelets).”

The need for blood and plasma

Someone in the US needs a blood transfusion every two seconds, but fewer than 3% of age-eligible people donate blood each year.

There is a vital need for continuous blood donations, and when you donate, plasma is also collected.

The Baylor Scott & White Blood Center is the only hospital-based blood donation center in the Texas region, allowing better access to an immediate blood supply in traumatic or crisis situations. Located in Temple, Texas, the blood center collects whole blood, most of which is processed into packed red cells, fresh frozen plasma or liquid plasma.

“Committed blood donors should keep donating—hopefully, four times a year,” Dr. Linz said. “Those who have never donated and are eligible to do so should at least try a whole blood collection once.”

What is plasma used for?

After receiving the whole blood donation, the blood center team will create and distribute the components as needed. Plasma donations are often used when someone cannot control blood clotting, also called coagulation disorders.

“Patients usually need red blood cells, often platelets and typically plasma,” Dr. Linz said.

Plasma has a yellowish coloring and is the liquid competent of our blood, constituting 55% of the total blood volume. Because it is the fluid component of our blood, it specifically:

  • Transports essential nutrients, hormones, waste and other substances
  • Aids in clotting
  • Assists with immune functions
  • Serves as the body’s protein reserve

What to expect if you donate plasma

Your plasma can regenerate fairly quickly, in most cases within about 24 hours. If you are interested in a whole blood donation, be sure to drink plenty of water.

You will also be screened to ensure proper health and safety prior to donating. Learn more about the criteria for donating here.

Donated plasma can be used for making medications to help control the thickness or stickiness of blood or blood viscosity. If you’ve lost a great deal of blood in surgery or an accident or have an impaired immune system, you may have benefitted from these transfusion products.

By donating blood and plasma, you can save a life.

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