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What Types of Blood Donation Can Help Save a Life?

Smiling woman donates blood

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Millions of people require blood transfusions every year due to surgery, serious injury or illnesses like leukemia or kidney disease. Donated blood, stored at hospitals and other health care facilities so it’s on hand, is always needed. Before you roll up your sleeves to help, you may have questions about blood donation. Keep reading to find your answers.

Is there more than one type of blood donation?

You may be surprised to learn there are four different blood donation types.

You can give:

Plasma

During a plasma donation, an automated process collects plasma while safely and comfortably returning the red blood cells and platelets to your body. Plasma is given to trauma and emergency patients to help stop bleeding.

Platelets

Platelets are tiny cells in your blood that help stop bleeding. When you donate platelets, you’re helping cancer patients and other people facing life-threatening illnesses. When donating platelets, a special machine collects platelets and a small amount of plasma while returning red cells and plasma to your body.

Power Red

A Power Red donation uses a special process to collect a concentrated sample of your red blood cells while comfortably and safely returning platelets and plasma to your body. Power Red donations are typically given to newborns, trauma patients, people with sickle cell anemia and anyone experiencing blood loss, such as in emergency transfusions for mothers giving birth.

Whole Blood

Whole blood is the most versatile type of donation and typically takes the shortest time. A whole blood donation can be transfused as-is or separated into red cells, platelets and plasma to help multiple people with specific needs.

What type of blood donation is most needed?

People with all blood types can donate blood. Type O-negative is the universal blood donor type, meaning these donations can be given to anyone, regardless of their blood type. Thus, O-negative blood is often needed since it’s used during emergencies when there isn’t time for blood typing. In addition, type O-positive blood is also in high demand since it’s the most common blood type. Regardless of your blood type and whether you donate plasma, platelets, Power Red or whole blood, your donation makes a big impact, and you could help save a life.

How long does it take to donate blood?

On average, the estimated length of blood donation by type is:

  • One hour for whole blood donation
  • One hour and fifteen minutes for plasma donation
  • One and a half hours for Power Red blood donation
  • Two and a half hours for platelet donation

How often can you donate blood?

How often you can donate blood depends on the kind of donation:

  • Every seven days, up to 24 times a year for platelets
  • Every 28 days, up to 13 times a year for plasma
  • Every 56 days, up to six times a year for whole blood
  • Every 112 days, up to three times a year for Power Red

Does donating blood hurt?

It’s normal to wonder what to expect when donating blood — and whether or not it’s a painful process. Beyond the initial band placed on the upper arm to identify a donation vein and the tiny needle pinch to collect the sample, donating blood isn’t painful. Most people describe these quick initial steps as mildly uncomfortable rather than painful.

Where can I donate blood?

If you’d like to donate blood, learn more about the donation process, or discover other ways you can help, discover more about our lab services and find additional blood donation resources in the Kansas City area, contact the Community Blood Center at 816-753-4040.

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