Why don't they want female platelets?
May 11, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Why are females not allowed to donate platelets in the UK?

The blood centre near my workplace has been encouraging more people to consider platelet donation, so I thought I would go and get checked out next time I went to donate whole blood. However, their website indicates they don't take female donors.

My best guess based on some Googling is that blood from female donors carries a higher risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury, but it seems like a policy which lowers the risk of an already low risk side effect, while ruling out a lot of donors who might be safe to donate at a time when they need more donors. I will ask the blood centre staff next time I go, but I wondered if anyone knew more about the reasoning behind it.
posted by penguinliz to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't know how closely these are related, but maybe it's a weight issue? In the US, in order to give double units you need to be a 135lb male or a 175lb female. 175lbs is a lot of woman. Maybe they just experience fewer complications with men, and have decided it's easier to just bar women completely?
posted by phunniemee at 9:59 AM on May 11, 2009

To piggyback on your comment, phunniemee, why do you have to be so much heavier if you are female donor? Do you have a citation?
posted by bluefly at 10:24 AM on May 11, 2009

As I understand it, it's not a matter of body weight but one of blood composition and volume. Females have a lower concentration of iron and platelets in their blood, and taking a full unit of platelets out of circulation (so to speak) puts more stress on a female's blood system than a male's. In addition, it takes women longer to replenish the iron in the blood after a donation than men (even with the same diet), and taking a full unit of platelets is equivalent to donating two units of whole blood, and donors run the risk of anemia. (Note, I am not a nurse, but I have friends who work in the blood bank biz, and somebody asked.)
posted by jlkr at 10:49 AM on May 11, 2009

I'd guess it has to do with the fact that women traditionally have considerably higher body fat percentages than men.
posted by kingbenny at 10:49 AM on May 11, 2009

phunniemee: Where is that info from? You only have to be 110lbs for apheresis according to the Red Cross. I'm interested to know what the weight difference would be attributed to.
posted by meerkatty at 10:56 AM on May 11, 2009

A piggyback on my previous post here explains the different requirements, at least for ARC double donations.
posted by jlkr at 10:58 AM on May 11, 2009

Thanks jlkr! I had no idea this was available for donors.
posted by meerkatty at 11:01 AM on May 11, 2009

Yeah. Looks like there's an increased risk of TRALI in multiparous women (women who have had babies)--that there are antibodies against the recipient's white cells that are more common in previously pregnant women than in either men or never-been-pregnant women.
posted by gramcracker at 11:08 AM on May 11, 2009

Penguinliz: It sounds as though the restriction is at the local level. The National Blood Service doesn't have that restriction, although they do say that there are a few more requirements to meet in order to donate platelets. Perhaps it's simply that many women don't have good veins in both arms (according to my ARC acquaintances).
posted by jlkr at 11:09 AM on May 11, 2009

Response by poster: jlkr: Weird, the linkin my post is also from the NBS website but a different area, so there is contradictory information on there. I'm sure I've seen female platelet donors before, so maybe they've changed the rules recently.

As far as I know you can't do a double donation to the NBS (you have to wait 16 weeks between single donations anyway), and this is platelet collection via apheresis so I don't think the weight restrictions are so, uh, restrictive.
posted by penguinliz at 11:26 AM on May 11, 2009

Women can donate in Scotland, so it's not UK-wide.

When I asked about donating platelets at the donor centre in Edinburgh, I was told it was about blood volume, and as was a smallish woman I probably wouldn't be accepted.
posted by penguin pie at 1:27 PM on May 11, 2009

Best answer: gramcracker: "Yeah. Looks like there's an increased risk of TRALI in multiparous women (women who have had babies)"

At the blood bank where I work (US not UK), we only "screen" for TRALI (there is no test, you just try to weed out the donors whose blood has the most likely chance of reacting with recipient) by not taking apheresis plasma from
- anyone who has had a transfusion, ever
- women who have ever been pregnant (whether or not the pregnancy was carried to term)

I'm not sure why in the UK it's extended to plateletpheresis as well. I believe that there is a little bit of plasma collected in plateletpheresis to help the platelets float around and not stick to each other.
posted by radioamy at 7:28 PM on May 11, 2009

Okay I just checked with a friend in our lab...they do keep a little plasma in a concentrated dose of platelets as a buffer.
posted by radioamy at 8:39 PM on May 11, 2009

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