Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Automated Blood Donation at Somerset Campus

What is Automated Blood Donation?

Automated blood collection (also known as apheresis) is a special type of blood donation that allows a donor to give multiple blood components, such as red blood cells, platelets or plasma. During the procedure, all but the needed blood components are returned to the donor.

The type of blood donation that you are probably most familiar with is called whole blood donation. Automated donation can save three lives simultaneously.

Why is Blood Separated?

Patients need different types of blood components depending on their illness or injury. 

           Red Blood Cells are made in the marrow of bones, especially the vertebrae, ribs, hips, skull and sternum. These disc-shaped cells, which contain hemoglobin, are carried by plasma. 

Plasma is the fluid component of the blood that carries other blood cells, nutrients and clotting factors throughout our bodies. These essential cells fight infection, carry oxygen and help control bleeding. 

           Platelets are the blood cells that help control bleeding. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets collect at the site of the injury and temporarily repair the tear. Platelets then activate substances in plasma which form a clot and allow the wound to heal.

Who Needs Platelets?

Many lifesaving medical treatments are performed with platelets. Patients with cancer, blood disorders or severe injuries require platelet transfusions to survive. Because platelets can be stored for only five days, the need for platelet donations is continuous.

Who Needs Plasma?

By giving your plasma through the automated collection process you will be sharing life-giving transfusions to patients suffering from burns, traumas and bleeding disorders.

Who Can be an Automated Donor?

If you meet the requirements for donating blood, you probably can give platelets. Apheresis donors must:

  • Be at least 17 years old (16 years old with parental consent)
  • Be in good health
  • Weigh at least 110 pounds (120 pounds if 16 years old)
  • For platelets:
    • Donors must not have taken asprin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, Plavix or other products containing asprin 48 hours prior to donation
    • Not have been pregnant more than three times

Is Automated Donation Safe?

Each donation is closely supervised throughout the procedure by trained staff. A small percentage of your platelets or plasma are collected, so there is no risk of bleeding problems. Your body will replace the donated platelets within 24 hours and donated plasma within two to three days. Donation equipment is sterile and discarded after every donation, making it virtually impossible to contract a disease from the process.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Blood is drawn from your arm through sterile tubing into a centrifuge. The centrifuge spins the blood to separate the components, which vary in weight and density. A port is opened along the spinning tubing at the level containing either the platelets or the plasma to be donated. These platelets or plasma are drawn up into a collection bag, while the remaining blood components (red cells and plasma or platelets) are returned to you through your other arm.

Depending on your weight and height, the entire automated donation process may take up to two hours. You may watch television, listen to music or simply sit back and relax while helping to save a life.

To learn more or to become an automated blood donor, call 908-685-2991.