Platelets are the blood cell component that cause clotting to occur. A low platelet count can result from chemotherapy for cancer, leukemia or a bone marrow transplant. The signs of a low platelet count can range from easy bruising to life-threatening bleeding. Donating platelets can help save someone's life if the person is in need of a transfusion. There are temporary side effects associated with donation, but no real long term risks of donation.
Before Donating Platelets
Before donating platelets, the donor's finger is pierced with a lancet to check a drop of blood to be certain the blood count is high enough to allow donation safely. This may temporarily hurt. A bandaid is applied to the finger.
Platelet Apheresis Process
Platelets are removed from the body in a process called apheresis, which involves inserting two intravenous lines into the arms. In one IV, the blood is removed and run into a centrifuge, which spins out the platelet cells and collects them for donation. At the same time, the red blood cells are returned in the second IV back into the donor's arm. There is some pain at the beginning of this process when the needle is inserted into the skin. Once the IV is inserted, it should not be painful. Very rarely, some people feel faint or dizzy at the sight of their own blood or with the pain of inserting a needle. Not looking at the needle, drinking fluids and remaining lying down will help this temporary sensation pass.
Side Effects of Platelet Donation
The platelet donation process takes about two hours. During the removal of blood, occasionally donors may feel chilled or have some tingling around the face and mouth. Trained donor technicians are always present to monitor and assist donors. Blankets are available for those who feel chilled.
Side Effects After Donation
Some bruising may be present after the needles are removed. Keep the arm bandaged for at least four hours and avoid any heavy lifting or work with the arms that day. This will minimize bruising. Drink plenty of fluids and avoid skipping meals the day of donation to avoid any sense of dizziness.