Surprising facts and frequently asked questions about plasma

Unpacking the mystery of plasma donation

Find answers to your questions about blood plasma

What is it? Where is it used? Why is it so important? 

What is blood plasma?

Blood is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Plasma makes up 55% of blood, and is one of its most critical components, as it carries cells and proteins throughout the body. Though blood is red when it comes out of the body, plasma is a light yellow liquid. Plasma is 90% water but also contains essential enzymes, proteins, and salt. Plasma is often given to trauma, burn, or shock patients, but is also used to create plasma protein therapies that treat a wide variety of chronic, rare diseases like blood clotting disorders and immune system conditions. Plasma-derived therapies are made from donated human plasma and are used to replace missing or deficient proteins in individuals, which provides them the ability to lead healthier lives.

Is it safe to donate plasma?

Yes! There’s no super strength needed to donate plasma. Each certified plasma donation center is sterile and operated by trained medical professionals to make sure that plasma donors donate safely. Read more on the myth that donating plasma is bad for you, among other misconceptions.
You can also check out how plasma is collected, what happens after it’s collected, and who ultimately benefits from plasma-derived medicinal products (PDMPs).

What happens to my plasma after I donate it and who does it help??

Plasma is used to create different therapies to help replace missing or deficient proteins in individuals with serious, often life-threatening diseases, such as as hemophilia and primary immunodeficiency septic shock and more. The plasma is frozen after donation to await confirmation of tests ensuring the health of the plasma. From there, it goes to a facility for production. It can take approximately 12 months from donation until the product is available for patients. Millions of liters of plasma must be donated annually to create enough life-changing medications to help those in need. For many with rare diseases, plasma-derived therapies are the only option for lifesaving treatment. The individuals who use these therapies typically rely on them for life, which means that they need to get regular injections or infusions of these plasma-derived therapies. Donated plasma is used to produce these lifesaving therapies. These therapies include clotting factors, immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies), alpha-1 antitrypsin, albumin, hyperimmune globulins, and more. Just as there is no substitute for blood, there is no substitute for the therapeutic proteins that come from plasma. Treating just one patient with hemophilia for a year can take upward of 1,200 plasma donations. Treating a patient with genetic emphysema for a year can take up to 900 plasma donations. That’s why your continued donations are so critical.

How often can I donate plasma?

Federal regulations permit a qualified donor to donate blood plasma two times in a seven-day period with at least 48 hours between donations. Some states have stricter requirements than these federal guidelines.

Is plasma donation the same as blood donation?

Whole blood donation is the most common type of blood donation, and whole blood is typically used to help trauma patients and patients undergoing surgery. The blood donation and source plasma donation processes are similar, but there are key differences.

Do I need to make an appointment?

Donating plasma takes place at plasma donation centers. Whether you need to make an appointment depends on the donation center. Find the one nearest you and call to find out if an appointment is required and any other items you might need to bring along. Many have a simple sign-up process online, as well. 

Keep in mind plasma donation is a commitment. Donors must return for a second donation within a six-month timeframe, or the first donation will be discarded. A first-time donation is great, but you must donate twice to make a difference!

Am I eligible to donate?

Plasma donors must be at least 18 years of age, weigh more than 110 pounds, and be in good health. Before donors give plasma, they are required to pass a health screening and provide proof of identity and address. Unlike regular blood donation, which can only be done once every eight weeks, you can donate plasma up to two times within a seven-day period. The body replenishes plasma proteins and fluid within 24-48 hours after a donation, making it safe to donate more frequently than a whole blood donation.
Here are some recent policy changes to donation qualifications, as well as a list of things that could disqualify you from donating.

How do I prepare for my first donation?

When you make your appointment, you will receive specific instructions about what to bring with you. Generally, you’ll need proof of identity, proof of address, and a valid social security card. Ensure you eat a light meal before you arrive and drink plenty of water in the hours leading up to your donation. Bringing something to read to pass the time is always a good idea. For more information check out this article: Understanding the plasma ecosystem from donor to patient.

What happens during my appointment?

When you arrive, you’ll be asked to provide appropriate paperwork and to complete a health screening and a blood test. Once the screening is complete, you are ready to donate. The process used to collect plasma is called plasmapheresis. During this process, whole blood is collected and the plasma is separated from blood cells and other components. The blood (minus the plasma collected) is then returned to your body, along with a sterile saline solution to help replace the plasma that was removed. Your first donation will take approximately two hours. Return visits take much less time. You will be compensated for donating plasma in the U.S.,typically, between $30-$50 dollars per donation depending on your weight and how much you are allowed to donate. This compensation is for your time given. 

Is all plasma the same?

All plasma is generally the same. However, source plasma is collected from donors to manufacture plasma-derived therapies. Source plasma is the plasma donated through plasmapheresis. When plasma is extracted from whole blood donation, it’s called recovered plasma. Only 250 milliliters of plasma can be recovered from each whole blood donation, while source plasma donors can supply up to 800 milliliters of plasma in a single donation. 

Additionally, convalescent plasma is an antibody-rich product made from plasma donated by someone who has recovered from a disease/virus, such as COVID-19. Convalescent plasma is useful too, as some of the same people who need plasma-derived therapies need convalescent plasma.