What Happens to Donated Blood

Oct. 18, 2017

Step 1: The Donation

Donor registers

Health history and mini physical are completed

About 1 pint of blood and several small test tubes are collected from each donor

The bag, test tubes and the donor record are labeled with an identical bar code label to keep track of the donation

The donation is stored in iced coolers until it is transported to a Red Cross center


Step 2: Processing

Donated blood is scanned into a computer database

Most blood is spun in centrifuges to separate the transfusable components – red cells, platelets, and plasma

The primary components like plasma, can be further manufactured into components such as cryoprecipitate

Red cells are then leuko-reduced

Single donor platelets are leukoreduced and bacterially tested.

Test tubes are sent for testing.

Single Blood Bag

Step 3: Testing

Steps 2 and 3 take place in parallel

The test tubes are received in one of three Red Cross National Testing Laboratories

A dozen tests are performed on each unit of donated blood – to establish the blood type and test for infectious diseases

Test results are transferred electronically to the manufacturing facility within 24 hours

If a test result is positive, the unit is discarded and the donor is notified. Test results are confidential and are only shared with the donor, except as may be required by law

Step 4: Storage


When test results are received, units suitable for transfusion are labeled and stored

Red Cells are stored in refrigerators at 6ºC for up to 42 days

Platelets are stored at room temperature in agitators for up to five days

Plasma and cryo are frozen and stored in freezers for up to one year


Step 5: Distribution

Blood is available to be shipped to hospitals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


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