Step 1
The Donation

  • You arrive for your blood donation appointment.
  • Health history and mini physical are completed.
  • For a whole blood donation, about 1 pint of blood is collected; several small test tubes of blood are also collected for testing.
  • Your donation, test tubes and your donor record are labeled with an identical bar code label.
  • Your donation is kept on ice before being taken to a storage center for processing; the test tubes go to the lab.


Step 2

  • At the processing center, information about your donation is scanned into a computer database.
  • Most whole blood donations are spun in centrifuges to separate it into transfusable components: red cells, platelets, and plasma.
  • Plasma may be processed into components such as cryoprecipitate, which helps control the risk of bleeding by helping blood to clot.
  • Red cells and platelets are leuko-reduced, which means your white cells are removed in order to reduce the possibility of the recipient having a reaction to the transfusion.
  • Each component is packaged as a “unit,” a standardized amount that doctors will use when transfusing a patient.


Step 3

  • In parallel with Step 2, your test tubes arrive at a testing laboratory.
  • A dozen tests are performed, to establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases.
  • Test results are transferred electronically to the processing center within 24 hours.
  • If a test result is positive, your donation will be discarded and you will be notified.


Step 4

  • When test results are received, units suitable for transfusion are labeled and stored.
  • Red cells are stored in refrigerators at 6ºC for up to 42 days.
  • Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days.
  • Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year.


Step 5

  • Blood is available to be shipped to hospitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Hospitals typically keep some blood units on their shelves, but may call for more at any time, such as in case of large scale emergencies.


Step 6

  • An ill or injured patient arrives at a hospital or treatment center.
  • Physicians determine whether the patient requires a transfusion and, if so, which type.
  • Blood transfusions are given to patients in a wide range of circumstances, including serious injuries (such as in a car crash) surgeries, child birth, anemia, blood disorders, cancer treatments, and many others.
  • A patient suffering from an iron deficiency or anemia may receive red blood cells to increase their hemoglobin and iron levels, improving the amount of oxygen in the body.
  • Patients who are unable to make enough platelets, due to illness or chemotherapy, may receive platelet transfusions to stay healthy.
  • Plasma transfusions are used for patients with liver failure, severe infections, and serious burns.