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Types of blood donations

Donating blood is a selfless decision. Blood donors may not know it, but they save lives every day.According to the American Red Cross, someone in the United States needs blood every two seconds. Cancer patients, organ transplant recipients and accident victims are just some of the types of people who benefit from blood donations every day.

There are different types of blood donations, and making the right type of donation can ensure a contribution is as valuable as it can be. The following is a rundown of the various types of blood donations, courtesy of the Red Cross.

Whole blood donation
“Whole blood” is the term used to describe the blood that flows through your veins. This blood contains red cells, white cells and platelets, suspended in plasma. A whole blood donation is the most flexible type of donation because it can be transfused in its original form or used to help multiple people after being separated into its specific components (i.e., red cells, plasma and platelets). The donation itself does not take much time, though donors should expect to spend about an hour at the donation center, which includes their post-donation recovery time. All blood types make ideal whole blood donations.

Power red donation
A power red donation allows donors to donate two units of red blood cells during a single donation. But unlike a whole blood donation, donors who make a power red donation have their plasma and platelets returned to them during the donation process. A power red donation typically takes around 30 minutes longer than a whole blood donation, but the Red Cross notes that power red donors may feel more hydrated after donating than whole blood donors because they don’t lose the liquid portion of their blood during the donation process. Power red donations are typically given to trauma patients and newborns and may be administered during emergency transfusions during births. Blood types that are ideal for power red donations include O positive, O negative, A negative, and B negative.

Platelet donation
Platelets are tiny cells in the blood that form clots and stop bleeding. Platelet donations take between 2.5 to three hours, and platelets are typically given to people fighting cancer, chronic disease and traumatic injuries. Platelet donations last just five days, so platelet donors are in high demand. During a platelet donation, platelets and some plasma are collected by an aspheresis machine, and red cells and most of the plasma is then returned to donors. Platelets are not collected at blood drives, and prospective platelet donors must visit Red Cross donation centers. People with A positive, A negative, B positive, O positive, AB positive, and AB negative blood types are ideal platelet donors.

AB elite plasma donation
AB plasma can be given to anyone regardless of their blood type. During an AB elite donation, plasma is collected and separated from other components in the blood. Red blood cells and platelets are then returned to donors. Donors with AB blood are ideal for AB elite plasma donations, which only take a few minutes more than a standard blood donation. Type AB plasma is the only universal type and can be given to patients of any blood type, making these donations especially valuable.

More information about blood donations can be found at