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Blood Donation FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions
Got any burning questions about giving blood?
Of course you have. Most people do.
Well, in that case, you should hopefully find the answer you need right here.

About Donating

Q Who can give blood?
Anyone between the ages of 18 and 55 who are fit and healthy. Regular donors can keep on giving blood right up until the age of 70.

Q Why is it important to donate blood?
A By becoming a blood donor, your single donation can be used to help several patients at once because blood is separated into red blood cells, platelets, and plasma. These components are given to patients suffering from leukemia or hemophilia, to accident victims, to patients undergoing chemotherapy or to patients who have lost blood during surgery. The need for blood always exceeds the available supply, so you can be sure that it will not be wasted.

Q How long does it take to donate blood?
A The actual blood donation will take 8-10 minutes, but you should allow 30-40 minutes for the entire visit. After registering, a medical history will be taken. The estimated time to donate blood also includes a few minutes spent relaxing in our refreshment room before you resume normal activities.

If you drive to the hospital, we will validate for you to park in our front two garages for your time spent as a blood donor.

Q How often may I donate blood?
A You may donate blood every 56 days (8 weeks). Immediately after you donate, your body starts to replace the blood you have given

Platelet Donation
Q What is a platelet donation?
A In addition to the collection of whole blood, the MGH Blood Donor Center also collects platelets through a process called Apheresis. This process allows the whole blood to be withdrawn from a donor and separated into its component parts (red cells, plasma, platelets), with all but the platelets returned to the donor.
Platelets are the clotting factor in your blood and are used extensively in the treatment of cancer, aplastic anemia, sickle cell anemia, transplant surgeries and other serious illnesses.

Q What is the process?
A While the blood donor relaxes in a contour chair, whole blood is drawn from one arm and channeled through a sterile tubing system and the platelets are separated out. The plasma a red cells are returned through the other arm. During the process, donors can use the e-Chair that allows you to watch TV, a DVD movie, surf the internet, play games and listen to music. Donors can also enjoy relaxing and reading a book.

Q How long does it take?
A The entire process from the time you walk in the door to the time you leave is about 2 to 2 ½ hours.

Q How often can I donate platelets?
A Since you are getting your red cells and plasma returned to you, you may give platelets every 2 weeks for a total of no more than 24 donations a year.

Q how to do Blood Type Test

A Blood type tests are done before a person receives a blood transfusion and to check a pregnant woman's blood type. Human blood is classified, or typed, according to the presence or absence of certain markers (called antigens) on the surface of red blood cells. Blood type may also be done to see if two people are likely to be blood relatives (for instance, to help establish paternity when it is in question).

The most important antigens are blood group antigens (ABO) and the Rh antigen. Therefore, the two most common blood type tests are the ABO and Rh tests. Although there are other ways to type blood, these two tests are the most common.

ABO test

The ABO test classifies people's blood into one of four types: A, B, AB, or O. If your red blood cells have:

The A antigen, you have type A blood. The liquid portion of your blood (plasma) contains antibodies against type B blood. In the United States, about 40% of the white population, 27% of African-Americans, 28% of Asians, and 16% of Native Americans are type A.

The B antigen, you have type B blood. Your plasma contains antibodies against type A blood. In the United States, about 11% of the white population, 20% of African-Americans, 27% of Asians, and 4% of Native Americans are type B.

Neither the A nor B antigen, you have type O blood. Your plasma contains antibodies against both type A and type B blood. In the United States, about 45% of the white population, 49% of African-Americans, 40% of Asians, and 79% of Native Americans are type O.

Both the A and B antigens, you have type AB blood. Your plasma does not contain antibodies against either type A or type B blood. In the United States, about 4% of the white population, 4% of African-Americans, 5% of Asians, and less than 1% of Native Americans are type AB.

Blood received in a transfusion must contain antigens that are the same as the antigens on a person's own red blood cells (compatible blood). If you receive a transfusion that contains antigens different from your own (incompatible blood), the antibodies in your plasma will recognize the transfused (donor) blood as foreign and will attack and destroy the donor red blood cells. This is called a transfusion reaction, and it occurs immediately when incompatible blood is transfused. A transfusion reaction can be mild or cause a serious illness and even death.

Type O-negative blood does not have any antigens. It is called the "universal donor" type because it is compatible with any blood type. Type AB-positive blood is called the "universal recipient" type because a person who has it can receive blood of any type. Although "universal donor" and "universal recipient" types are occasionally used to classify blood in an emergency, blood type tests are always done to prevent transfusion reactions.

Minor antigens (other than A, B, and Rh) that occur on red blood cells can sometimes also cause problems and so are also checked for a match before giving a blood transfusion.

Serious transfusion reactions are rare today because of blood type tests.

Rh test

Rh blood type checks for the presence (+) or absence (-) of the Rh antigen (also called the Rh factor). If your red blood cells:

Contain the Rh antigen, your blood is Rh-positive.

Do not contain the Rh antigen, your blood is Rh-negative.

Contain the A and Rh antigens, your blood type is A-positive (A+). If your blood contains the B antigen but not the Rh antigen, your blood type is B-negative (B-).

Rh blood type is especially important for pregnant women. A potential problem arises when a woman who has Rh-negative blood becomes pregnant with a baby (fetus) that has Rh-positive blood. This is called Rh incompatibility. If the blood of an Rh-positive baby mixes with the blood of an Rh-negative woman during pregnancy or delivery, the mother's immune system produces antibodies. This antibody response is called Rh sensitization and, depending on when it occurs, can destroy the baby's red blood cells.

Rh sensitization does not usually affect the health of the baby during the pregnancy in which the sensitization occurs. However, the baby of a future pregnancy is more likely to be affected if the baby's blood type is Rh-positive. Once sensitization has occurred, the baby can develop mild to severe problems (called Rh disease, hemolytic disease of the newborn, or erythroblastosis fetalis). If untreated, complications from sensitization can, in rare cases, lead to the death of an Rh-positive baby.

An Rh test is done in early pregnancy to detect a woman's blood type. If she is Rh-negative, she can receive an antibody injection called Rh immune globulin (such as RhoGAM) that almost always prevents sensitization from occurring. Problems arising from Rh sensitization have become very rare since the Rh immune globulin injection was developed.


Why It Is Done

Blood type is done:

Before a person receives a blood transfusion.

Before a person donates blood.

Before a person donates an organ for transplantation.

Before surgery.

When a woman is planning to become pregnant or first becomes pregnant.

To determine whether two people could be blood relatives.

To identify a person suspected of committing a crime.

How To Prepare

No special preparation is needed before having this test.

How It Is Done

The health professional drawing blood will:

Wrap an elastic band around your upper arm to stop the flow of blood. This makes the veins below the band larger so it is easier to put a needle into the vein.

Clean the needle site with alcohol.

Put the needle into the vein. If the needle is not placed correctly or if the vein collapses, more than one needle stick may be needed.

Attach a tube to the needle to fill it with blood.

Remove the band from your arm when enough blood is collected.

Apply a gauze pad or cotton ball over the needle site as the needle is removed.

Apply pressure to the site and then a bandage.

How It Feels

You may feel nothing at all from the needle puncture, or you may feel a brief sting or pinch as the needle goes through the skin. Some people feel a stinging pain while the needle is in the vein. However, many people do not feel any pain (or have only minor discomfort) once the needle is positioned in the vein. The amount of pain you feel depends on the skill of the health professional drawing the blood, the condition of your veins, and your sensitivity to pain.

e site. You can reduce the risk of bruising by keeping pressure on the site for several minutes after the needle is withdrawn.

Rarely, the vein may become inflamed after the blood sample is taken. This condition is called phlebitis and is usually treated with a warm compress applied several times daily.

Continued bleeding can be a problem for people with bleeding disorders. Aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), and other blood-thinning medications can also make bleeding more likely. If you have bleeding or clotting problems, or if you take blood-thinning medication, tell your health professional before your blood is drawn.