What to Expect During Plasma Donation

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Nurse showing patient donating blood her own blood plasma

Like donating blood, plasma donation provides a valuable medical resource for patients and researchers. In fact, according to the American Red Cross, nearly 10,000 units of plasma are needed each day in the United States. While many people donate their plasma each year, others give a plasma donation for money. Learn how providers offer compensation if you're interested in donating plasma for money, typical plasma donation requirements, and what to expect during plasma donation, including needle size and potential side effects.

Plasma donation is similar to donating blood.

Donating plasma has many similarities to donating blood. You will go through a screening process and a finger prick blood test, and then you will have a needle inserted in your vein. The needle is connected to tubing that collects your blood and sends it to a centrifuge, where the plasma is separated from the whole blood. The remainder of blood is then returned to your body along with some saline. This process takes a few minutes longer than regular blood donation.

Plasma donation requirements are more detailed if you sell your plasma.

If donating your plasma, donors should be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds and be in good health. If you plan to sell your plasma, you must be at least 18 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, undergo a medical history screening, two separate medical exams, and testing for transmissible viruses.

While anyone can donate plasma, people with type AB positive blood are considered universal plasma donors because AB plasma transfusions can be given to patients of any blood type. This is the opposite of blood transfusion, where people with type O negative blood are considered universal donors. The reason is the presence of antibodies against A and B antigens, which are on the surface of red blood cells. A person with type O negative blood has anti-A and anti-B antibodies in plasma, which can trigger destruction of the recipient’s red blood cells depending on blood type. (Stored red cells have only a trace amount of antibodies.) However, type AB blood does not have anti-A or anti-B antibodies in the plasma, so the plasma can be safely transfused to someone of any blood type.

The plasma donation process takes approximately 90 minutes.

From start to finish, the entire plasma donation process takes about an hour and a half. For your first plasma donation, you will need to check in, undergo medical screening and testing, and verify your personal information. If you are selling your plasma, your first donation appointment also may include a physical exam and testing for transmissible viruses. Subsequent plasma donations will require you to undergo a health screening, medical testing and verification of your personal information. For every plasma donation, you will need a finger stick test so the medical staff can check your protein and hemoglobin levels.

Make yourself comfortable during your plasma donation.

Because donating plasma takes more time than giving blood, you should bring a few things to make yourself comfortable during the procedure. Donation centers are kept cool to prevent your body temperature from rising, so you should dress warmly and bring a jacket. If you are a cold-natured person, you may even want to bring a blanket. You may want to bring a book or electronic device to watch a movie to occupy your time during the donation. Of course, you can always bring a friend who wants to donate plasma too.

You may experience some side effects following a plasma donation.

It is possible to experience plasma donation side effects. These range from bruising or pain at the needle site to feeling dizzy or lightheaded. These usually resolve within a few minutes to a few hours.

However, you should seek out medical attention if you experience any the following symptoms for an extended period of time or they worsen:

  • Redness, swelling or pain at the needle site
  • Blurry vision
  • Balance problems
  • Difficulty breathing

You could get paid for your plasma donation.

While many people choose to donate their plasma with organizations like the American Red Cross, there are many companies that will pay for your plasma donation. How much compensation you receive depends on the individual company and how much plasma you donate. On average, you could receive between $30 and $60 per donation. Although the American Red Cross limits plasma donations to every 28 days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration permits two donations within a seven-day period provided you wait at least 48 hours between donations.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 17
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Blood Needs & Blood Supply. American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/how-blood-donations-help/blood-needs-blood-supply.html
  2. Requirements by Donation Type. American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/how-to-donate/eligibility-requirements.html
  3. Donor Frequently Asked Questions. Plasma Protein Therapeutics Association. https://www.donatingplasma.org/donation/donor-faq
  4. The Importance of Plasma in Blood. American Red Cross. https://www.redcrossblood.org/donate-blood/dlp/plasma-information.html
  5. Guide to Inspections of Source Plasma Establishments – Section 2. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/inspections-compliance-enforcement-and-criminal-investigations/inspection-guides/section-2
  6. Guidelines for the Blood Transfusion Services. Joint United Kingdom (UK) Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee. https://www.transfusionguidelines.org/transfusion-handbook/2-basics-of-blood-groups-and-antibodies/2-4-the-abo-system
  7. 2.4: The ABO system. Joint United Kingdom (UK) Blood Transfusion and Tissue Transplantation Services Professional Advisory Committee. https://www.transfusionguidelines.org/transfusion-handbook/2-basics-of-blood-groups-and-antibodies/2-4-the-abo-system