Types of blood donations

Find out about the different types of blood donation, including whole blood donations and apheresis donations.

Our staff can advise you on the type of donation you can make that will help patients the most. This may change from time to time depending on the patients' need.

Whole blood donation

Whole blood refers to blood in its complete form, not separated into its various components. It is the most common type of blood donation.

When you donate whole blood, it is usually separated into its components – e.g. red cells, plasma, platelets – for transfusion. Whole blood is seldom used for transfusions except in cases of rapid massive blood loss.

Key facts

Common uses

For rapid and massive blood loss cases e.g. during surgery or for accident victims.

What's the process

Between 350 ml and 450 ml of blood is drawn. That's only 8% to 12% of the total volume of blood in your body.

How long it takes

About 5 to 10 minutes.

How often you can donate

Every 12 weeks.

Apheresis donation

Sometimes, patients need only a specific part of a donor's blood. To help these people, donations of individual blood components such as platelets, plasma or red cell are required. Such donations are known as apheresis donations.

Advantages of apheresis

  • Repeat apheresis donors who are below 66 years old can donate plasma and platelet every month, instead of every 3 months for whole blood donations.
  • With regular apheresis donations, you can help ensure a stable supply of blood products for patients when they need it.
  • Apheresis allows a much larger number of platelets to be collected from a single donor.
  • It minimises a patient's exposure to multiple donors' blood.

Key facts

Common uses

Red blood cells:

  • Treatment of anemia.
  • Replace loss of red blood cells in accidents or during surgery or childbirth.

Platelets: Treatment for dengue, leukemia and cancer patients.

Plasma: Replace clotting factors which may be depleted in bleeding or infection.

What's the process

Apheresis is an automated process:

  1. Machines called blood cell separators draw blood from you.
  2. The plasma, platelets or red cells in the blood are extracted.
  3. The remaining components are returned to you.

You might feel tingling around the mouth area, or feel a little cold during the procedure due to the addition of an anti-coagulant called citrate acid to prevent the blood from clotting. This small amount of citrate is broken down very quickly upon infusion. 

How long it takes
  • Platelet donation: 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Plasma & double red cells donation: 45 minutes.
How often you can donate
  • Platelets and plasma: every 4 weeks.
  • Double red cells: every 16 weeks.