Platelets by Apheresis

Each year, more than 30,000 units of platelets are transfused at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center to treat patients undergoing cancer therapy; organ and tissue transplants; and other diseases that require platelet therapy.

What are Platelets?
Platelets are small cells that help the blood to clot. Manufactured in the bone marrow and stored in the spleen, their job is to rush to the site of an injury. Once there, they form a barrier, help the damaged organ or blood vessel stop bleeding, and give the body a chance to begin healing.

What is Plateletpheresis?
Plateletpheresis is the standard procedure by which platelets are separated from whole blood, concentrated, and collected. To remove platelets, a needle is placed in each arm. Blood flows through a needle into a machine that contains a sterile, disposable plastic kit specifically designed for this purpose. The platelets are isolated and channeled out into a special bag, and red blood cells and other parts of the blood are returned to you through a needle in the opposite arm. There is also a plateletpheresis procedure that can be performed with a single needle.

Is Plateletpheresis Safe?
Absolutely.  The machine and the procedure have been evaluated and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and all plastics and needles coming into contact with you are used once and discarded. At no time during the procedure is the blood being returned to you detached from the needle in your arm, so there is no risk of returning the wrong blood to you.

Who Is Eligible to Give Platelets?
The interval between consecutive platelet donations at NIH is 1 month. However, because the body replaces platelets within a few days, you are allowed to give more frequently when you are donating for a relative or for a patient who responds particularly well to your platelets.  In addition to standard donor eligibility requirements, platelet donors should refrain from taking aspirin for 48 hours prior to donation. View detailed description of donor criteria.

How Long Does Plateletpheresis Take?
Plateletpheresis procedures take about 90 minutes, however, you should allow two hours. This gives you just enough time to watch a movie from our extensive video library. Every effort will be made to make the experience relaxing and enjoyable.

How Do I Arrange to Donate Platelets?
Call the NIH Donor Center at Fishers Lane at (301) 496-4321 to speak to the plateletpheresis recruiter, who will answer your questions and arrange a convenient time for your donation.

Location and Hours
NIH Donor Center at Fishers Lane
Rm 1S02, MSC 9415
5625 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20852

Fishers Lane hours: Mon-Thurs 8:00am-5:00pm
Fridays and select Saturdays: 7:30am-1:00pm

Open Federal holidays and select Saturdays.

Watch this video to learn more about the NIH Donor Center at Fishers Lane in Rockville, MD, and find out how you can become a blood and platelet donor.

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This page last updated on 03/22/2022

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