What are the benefits (to the donor) of a platelet/plasma donation?
March 6, 2011 8:53 PM   Subscribe

What are the benefits (to the donor) of a platelet/plasma donation?

Haven't been able to find scientific evidence, medical studies, or any other hard evidence on the benefits of platelet/plasma donations where only red blood cells are returned to the donor.

I have started, and plan to donate platelets regularly at a non-profit blood bank; the apheresis machine used collects platelets and plasma, and I was told that "only red blood cells are returned"

During this 90 minute process, about half the blood in my body goes through this machine a small amount at a time... while in this high tech machine, the inner compartment shakes vigorously and I gather this is separating everything with the help of anticoagulants ... in a way I believe this machine is "skimming" everything above the red blood cells and returning only the red blood cells to me...

I understand that with a whole blood donation, the benefits at least for me a man are the reduction of high iron levels... but if I understand correctly the iron in a platelet/plasma donation is returned back to me since iron and red blood cells are less buoyant?

So if hypothetically I were to donate platelets/plasma regularly, and essentially anything more buoyant than red blood cells were "skimmed" off:

What is being skimmed off? White Blood Cells? toxins? cholesterol plaque? dissipated proteins? glucose? hormones? carbon dioxide?

Links I have read but no clear answer:
Blood - Wikipedia
Plateletpheresis - Wikipedia
Plasmapheresis - Wikipedia
and extensive Google searches...
posted by MrBCID to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
The benefit is good karma, a feeling of helping to save someone's life.

I don't think there are any physical benefits.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2011

This is an unusual question - I would expect you to be asking what are the effects. I am a regular platelet donor - my understanding of the donation process I go through is that they take platelets and just as much plasma as they need to keep the platelets liquid. So it's not just that they return red blood cells - they specifically centrifuge out the platelets and return everything that isn't at that particular density to you. The process you're going through may be different and may have different components kept/returned.

But it's my understanding that there really haven't been any studies done of what the effects of regular donation are. Usually for me I mentally phrase the question as "what are the possible side effects" since I'm more concerned about possible negative effects. The answer is "we don't know" - some white blood cells are lost, platelets are lost so presumably you'd be more likely to have trouble with blood clotting or to get bruised... but as far as I know it hasn't been studied in depth whether, for example, platelet donors get sick more often, or whether the body starts making more platelets, whether you're more likely or less likely to get a dangerous blood clot, etc.
posted by Lady Li at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2011 [1 favorite]

The benefit is good karma, a feeling of helping to save someone's life.

You also, at many centers, get a free cup of juice and a cookie. That's pretty cool. Free cookie!
posted by zachlipton at 9:29 PM on March 6, 2011 [5 favorites]

Sometimes you also get coupons for things like free comedy shows or appetizers at restaurants!
posted by so_gracefully at 9:49 PM on March 6, 2011

Oh - to try to sound less paranoid - not that they don't keep an eye on donors etc., there aren't any major obvious negative effects. But just like blood donation, it's mostly not something you do for your own self (maybe some people need to have their iron levels reduced, but it's certainly not typical that most people are better off with a pint less blood).
posted by Lady Li at 9:52 PM on March 6, 2011 [3 favorites]

I give blood often and I always thought it'd be nice if, say, it turned out that, "Your body burns 300 calories making more blood to replace what you've donated! It's like you jogged a mile and burned off those Nutter Butters we gave you! Yay!" But alas, they don't have a sign anything like that posted anywhere. Do you mean something like that?

And thanks to your question, I googled it and here's an answer! But I don't know how it converts to platelet donation rather than whole blood donation.
posted by artychoke at 9:59 PM on March 6, 2011

Here's more on the calories burned from an obviously better source.
posted by artychoke at 10:11 PM on March 6, 2011

I'd have said "the warm glow of knowing you've done something altruistic", but "good karma" works! Can't say I've ever noticed anything else, and I've got several dozen whole-blood plus about 25 platelet donations under my belt.

I'm O-positive and CMV-negative; I've been told that one donation of my platelets translates into several doses for neonatal patients, most of whom are too young to have been blood-typed yet, but who critically need what I can freely give. Good karma, indeed!
posted by easily confused at 2:59 AM on March 7, 2011

Money is a good incentive too, my first year of college I made about $200/month selling plasma.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 6:29 AM on March 7, 2011

For me, money.
posted by patrad at 8:06 AM on March 7, 2011

It's against the law now to pay donors of blood or blood fractions. (It gives people an incentive to lie about risk factors, and blood from paid donors has a greater chance of HIV and HepC.)
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2011

Money has been my main incentive. $250-300 a month donating plasma for the past ~2 years. I was told that some amount of fats get filtered out each time, though I don't have anything to back that up with.
posted by CrystalDave at 11:04 AM on March 7, 2011

In my experience, fajita/liquor money.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:56 AM on March 7, 2011

Maybe my information (about it being against the law) only applies to certain states.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:09 PM on March 7, 2011

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