Medical Advances Increase Need for Unique Blood Products

By: American Red Cross Last Updated: October 16, 2009

The same medical advances that can help save lives can also increase the need for more and specialized blood products like platelets.

Platelets are the microscopic particles in whole blood that help blood clot and stop bleeding. Along with red cells and plasma, platelets are among the major components in blood. Cancer patients often need platelets to endure the rigors of chemotherapy, and victims of accidents and trauma may need platelets for emergency care. And like other blood components, the primary source for platelets is volunteer donors.

“Hospitals depend on platelet donors every day to help save the lives of people who are very sick or injured,” said Sharyn Whitman, CEO for the Indiana-Ohio Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross. “In some cases, the transfusion of platelets can make the difference between life and death.”

While platelets can be derived from whole blood donations, they’re most efficiently collected through apheresis--a special donation process that involves separating platelets from other blood components. Depending on blood type, some whole blood donors may be asked to consider donating platelets at designated donation centers through the American Red Cross.

Although platelets are becoming increasingly important in modern medical care, comparatively few people roll up their sleeves to give. Nationwide, just 0.1 percent of the population donates platelets, compared to 3 percent of the population who donate blood. And while about 4 million people donate blood each year through the American Red Cross, just 95,000 donate platelets.

“Whether you give blood or platelets, someone somewhere will benefit from your donation,” said Whitman. “By donating through the Red Cross, you can help change a life.”

Click here to see a list of upcoming American Red Cross blood drives in your area.

How to Donate Platelets
Call (260) 480-8299 or 1-800-589-8127 to schedule your platelet donation appointment or visit RedCrossBlood.org for more information. If you are at least 18 years of age, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds based on height and are in good general health, you may be eligible to donate platelets. All donors need to present positive identification.

How to Donate Blood
Individuals who are at least 17 years old (16 with parental permission in Indiana and Ohio), meet height and weight requirements (at least 110 pounds based on height) and are in general good health may be eligible to donate blood. Red Cross donor card or positive ID required. Call 1-800-GIVE LIFE (1-800-448-3543) or log on RedCrossBlood.org for more information.

About the American Red Cross
The Indiana-Ohio Blood Services Region serves northern and central Indiana and northwestern Ohio, and needs to collect about 350 units of platelets per week and 500 units of blood a day to meet patient need in more than 60 hospitals. In addition to providing blood and platelets to our community, the American Red Cross also provides relief to victims of disaster, trains millions in lifesaving skills, serves as a communication link between U.S. military members and their families, and assists victims of international disasters or conflicts.