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Blood Donations: The Gift That Keeps Giving

Carter Blood Care

During the holidays when thoughts turn to gift giving, organizations like American Red Cross and Carter Blood Care tend to see fewer donations. Dr. Lesley Kresie, Carter's medical director of laboratory services, explains why in this week’s segment of “Vital Signs.”

Six Facts About How Blood Donations Are Used:

Whole blood, kept cool in refrigerators, can be transfused for 21 days after the donation.

Red cells can be used for 42 days after they are donated. They are used in the treatment of accident victims, to replace blood lost during surgery, to treat burn victims, and to increase the blood's oxygen-carrying capacity. They are also used in treatment of anemia that can't be medically corrected.

Platelets are stored separate from other components and must be used in the five days following the donation. They are used to treat bone marrow failure, leukemia and cancer patients, low platelet count or other conditions causing abnormally functioning platelets.

Plasma has a much longer shelf life and is often frozen for later use. Once thawed, plasma is used during cardiac surgery, for burn victims, and to treat bleeding disorders when many clotting factors are missing. This occurs in liver failure, when too much of a blood thinner has been given, or when severe bleeding and massive transfusions result in low levels of clotting factors.

Albumin makes up 60 percent of the protein in plasma and is produced in the liver. It is used when blood volume needs to be increased and other fluids have not worked, as in cases of severe bleeding, liver failure and severe burns.

Immunoglobulins are given to patients who have been exposed to diseases such as rabies, tetanus or hepatitis to help boost their immune system to fight the potential infection.

For more information:

Carter Blood Care

American Red Cross