What is plasma?
Plasma is the clear, straw-coloured liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are removed. It contains clotting proteins, antibodies, hormones and water. 55% of human blood is made from plasma – the single largest component.
What is plasma used for?
We can make a variety of life-saving products and medicines from plasma, including:
- Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP): Donated plasma is frozen quickly to preserve its clotting factors. It can be used to treat patients with major bleeding or who have low levels of certain clotting factors.
- Plasma for Medicines: Donated plasma can also be frozen and used to make an antibody-rich product called immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin can be used to help patients with weakened immune systems fight infection. Some people are born with weakened immune systems and others develop this after cancer, cancer treatment or transplants.
Who can give plasma?
To give plasma (which we currently use to make FFP), you must be:
- at least 60kg
- existing blood donors (must have donated blood at least once before)
- any blood group (but we're particularly keen to welcome donors with AB and B blood group)
- able to come to the blood donor centre in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow frequently - perhaps as often as every four to six weeks
- willing to spare up to 90 minutes each time they give plasma
*Female donors will be accepted for Plasma for Medicine donation (to make immunoglobulin) but we cannot currently use female plasma for FFP (as it may be linked to certain transfusion reactions)
What else do I need to know?
Plasma donation is similar to giving blood. We use a machine which collects the blood then separates the individual components and returns the red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets back to the donor. The whole process takes no longer than 90 minutes.
All blood groups are suitable for plasma donation, but we are particularly keen to welcome donors with blood group AB. This is because their FFP is ‘universal’ and can be given to patients of any blood group.
Plasma donors must meet the same health criteria as blood donors. We do some extra tests for plasma only donors, such as protein levels to make sure it's safe for you to continue to donate. We will also test Plasma for Medicine donors for Hepatitis A and Parvovirus B 19.
You can give a Plasma for Medicine donation from four weeks after your last blood donation.
What should I do before donating?
- Make sure you've had plenty to drink before coming to give plasma. Avoid drinks such as coffee, tea or alcohol as they can dehydrate you.
- We’ll also give you 500ml of water to drink when you arrive. This might seem a lot, but we know it will make you less likely to feel faint. Keeping hydrated is the best way to avoid fainting.
- Don't donate on an empty stomach - make sure you've eaten well before you come. However, avoid fatty, oily or greasy meals as these can affect the quality of your plasma.
Are there any risks associated with giving plasma?
Most of the risks of plasma donation are similar to the risks associated with blood donation. Side effects can sometimes include:
- Bruising and pain: Most pain and bruising is minor, and symptoms settle quickly with no or simple measures. Fewer than 1 in 100 donations lead to bruising, while around 1 in 2000 donations cause severe arm pain.
- Feeling faint: Around 1 in 80 donations lead to donors feeling faint. New blood donors are more likely to be affected, however drinking plenty of clear fluids (at least 500ml) before donation significantly reduces the likelihood of fainting.
- Citrate effect: Citrate is a blood thinner which occurs naturally in the body. It is added to the donation to prevent blood clotting. A small amount is returned to the donor with their red cells. Most donors feel no side effects, but some may feel tingling around their mouth, fingertips or toes, a metallic taste, or chills. These effects are easily managed by slowing the procedure down.
Other rare complications of donation include inflammation of the arm, irritation of a nerve or punctured artery. This occurs very rarely (fewer than 1 in 14,000 donations).
If you become at all uncomfortable during your donation, it is vital you let a member of staff know. Our team is trained to take the best possible care of you.
Where can I give plasma?
You can give plasma at Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh or Glasgow blood donor centres.
I’m interested - how do I sign up?
- To find out more, use the contact us form or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. One of our plasma recruitment team will get in touch.
- Alternatively, call us 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday, on 0345 90 90 999.