Automated Blood Donation, the Noob Explanation

What is an automated blood donation?

Your blood is drawn from one arm through a sterile single use tubing set to an automated system. This separates and collects the most needed components of your blood and then safely returns the remaining blood components back to you.

Okay, so what’s the big deal?

The automated blood donations are 6 times more efficient than a traditional whole blood donation. That means that the machines that extract the blood can do a way better job and your time and blood are worth more to the banks.

Donor giving blood through an automated blood donation machine.

The most needed components of your blood are:


These bad boys are in charge of blood clotting. Doctors need these for open heart surgery, to support cancer therapy, treatment of blood disorders, and for organ transplants. Platelets must also be transfuses (used in one of the above examples) in 5 days. It has a short shelf life, so the supply must always be replenished. A single donor can donate platelets up to 24 times per year. Any more then that amont is generally not recommended.

Red Blood Cells:
As you know from medical school (or maybe grades school ;) that red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Typically they are most needed after a loss of blood through trauma, surgery or anemia. These too have a shelf life of 5 days, so the need for donors is constant. This donation can be made about every 8-16 weeks, depending on the donation type.

This is the liquid part of the blood, and it contains critical clotting factors. Plasma generally treats patients with certain bleeding disorders and is used for plasma exchanges. Plasma can be given up to twice a week or even every 4 weeks for some programs. Check with a local bank for their specific plasma donation program.

How much blood does one of these medical procedures take?

This is where the data gets real interesting. Check this out:

So every time you donate blood you would get:

1 red blood cell unit
1 unit of platelet
1 unit of plasma

follow me? So here is how many each takes:

Automobile Accident
– up to 50 Units of Red Blood Cells

Organ Transplant Recipient– up to 40 units of RBC
– 30 of Platelet
– 25 of Plasma

Bone Marrow Transplant Recipient
– 20 of RBC
-120 of Platelets!

Cancer Patient
-up to 8 units of Platelets every week!

Heart Surgery Patient
-6 of RBC
-6 of Platelets

Sickle Cell Anemia Patient
up to 4 units of Red Blood Cells per treatment.

Whoa! now you know why blood donation is so important!

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3 thoughts on “Automated Blood Donation, the Noob Explanation

  1. I found the information on this site very informative for many reasons. Great way to help shed light on things, and help answer questions for a person needing location specifics of centers throughout the U.S.

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