NIH Blood Bank

Whole Blood

Each year, about 7,000 units of whole blood are needed in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center (CC) to treat patients undergoing cancer therapy; organ and tissue transplants; and other diseases that require blood transfusions.

What is Whole Blood?
Whole blood consists of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets suspended in a protective yellow liquid known as plasma. Most patients receiving transfusions do not need all of these elements. One pint (unit) of whole blood is usually processed by a spinning method into red blood cells, which carry the oxygen needed by patients who are anemic; platelets, needed by patients who are bleeding; and plasma, transfused to patients whose blood is not clotting. Therefore, one donation of whole blood can treat three different patients!

Is it Safe to Give Whole Blood?
Absolutely. Many safeguards are taken to assure that no harm comes to you during or after donation. First, we obtain a medical history and check your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature to assure that you are in good health. We take a small sample of blood from your finger to confirm that you have an ample number of red cells to share. All equipment used to collect your blood is sterile and disposable. After donation, we provide delicious snacks and drinks.

Who is Eligible to Give Whole Blood?
Please see detailed description of donor criteria.

How Often Can I Donate Whole Blood?
You must wait 56 days between whole-blood donations to allow the number of red blood cells in your body to return to a predonation level.

How Do I Arrange to Donate?
You can contact the NIH Blood Bank by calling (301) 496-1048 or make an appointment online.

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This page last updated on 10/18/2023

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