Types of Blood Donations

Volunteer Whole Blood Donation 

Whole blood donations are the most common donation type and come from generous citizens in our community who voluntarily donate blood to give to others who are sick or injured. These unnamed heroes receive no material benefit or financial reward. In a study by the National Blood Foundation more than 5000 current or past blood donors were asked why they donate blood.1 Nearly three-quarters of the respondents said that they give blood to help others. Respondents also said that giving blood makes them feel good about themselves; supports their local communities and hospitals; supports their community culture; and "pays back" society for the times when they or their families have needed blood transfusions in the past.

In less than an hour, a person can donate one unit of whole blood that can then be separated into individual components to help save multiple lives. The body contains 10 to 12 pints of blood. Donors are deemed eligible to donate whole blood after an extensive screening process. After whole blood donation, the volume of fluids is replaced within a few hours. The red blood cells are replaced within a few weeks. A whole blood donor may give blood every 56 days. Blood can be kept for a maximum of 42 days.

1. Gillespie, T. et al., National study of blood donation decision-making: Current and lapsed donors. Transfusion. 2004;42, No. 9S, 122-123S.   

Double Red Cell Donation (Red cell apheresis)

To meet the ever-increasing demand for blood, we can optimize blood donations with the double red cell program. Automated double-component collection systems allow a donor to give two units of red cells in just one visit. The full potential of the donation is therefore reached by giving more of the most frequently needed blood component-red blood cells.

Red cells carry oxygen to all parts of the body. They are most needed after significant blood loss from trauma and surgery and are used to treat anemia and other blood diseases. More than 14 million units of red blood cells are transfused annually in the treatment of people with critical medical conditions.

How does it work? During a double red cell donation, blood is drawn from one arm using a sterile, single-use kit. The red cells are separated and the remaining blood is returned to the donor along with additional saline, thereby replenishing most of the lost fluids. Donors often leave feeling better than a standard whole blood donation because they are better hydrated. It only takes 10 to 20 additional minutes for a double donation.

The eligibility requirements are slightly more stringent when donating two units of red blood cells. See the chart below for the basic qualifications.





> 130 lbs.

> 5'1"


> 150 lbs.

> 5'5"

A double red cell donor may donate every 112 days. This option is well suited to those who wish to donate fewer times per year. Double red cell donors who participate in the program and give one to three times a year, can significantly impact the ability to provide blood whenever and wherever it is needed. Fewer visits and double the units!   

Platelet Donation

Platelet machine

Platelets are very small, colorless, cell fragments in the blood. Their main function is to help clot blood. Platelets are needed by patients whose ability to make their own platelets is compromised through disease, chemotherapy, or heart surgery. Platelets are collected through an apheresis process. During a platelet donation, blood is drawn from one arm and transferred to an apheresis machine. The platelets are separated from the blood, and then the rest of the blood is returned to the donor. The process takes about two hours. Most donors relax, watch movies, or read.  Donors must meet specific criteria to qualify as a platelet apheresis donor. At your next whole blood donation, please ask about donating platelets. Platelets may be donated as often as every 3 to 7 days, up to 24 times a year.