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Step by Step Donation Process for Automated Collections

What is an Automated Donation?

A small portion of your blood is drawn from your arm and passed through a sophisticated cell-separating machine. The machine collects one or more specific blood components and safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back to you.


Types of Automated Donations

Platelet Donation - Platelet donations are collected at select American Red Cross Donation Centers only. The process from the time you arrive until the time you leave takes about 2.5 - 3 hours. This is an automated donation procedure. The donation itself is takes about 1.5 - 2 hours for most donors, depending on the number of patient doses that can be safely collected. (Plasma can also be collected simultaneously with a platelet donation.)

Double Red Cell Donation - The donation process from the time you arrive until the time you leave takes about an hour. This is an automated donation procedure. The donation itself takes about 35 minutes on average. Double red cell donations are collected at local American Red Cross Donation Centers and most local community, school, and business blood drives.


Breakdown of the Automated Collection process

Below is a breakdown of the Automated Donation Process, step by step, so that you know what to expect when you choose to make this type of donation.

Step 1: Registration

Automated Collection Donations Step 1 - Register

  • Our staff and volunteers will sign you in and then go over the basic eligibility and donation information.
  • You will read information about donating blood, and will be asked to show a donor card, driver's license, or other form(s) of ID.

Step 2: Mini-Physical

Automated Donations Process Step 2 - A Mini-Physical

  • You will answer some questions during a private and confidential interview about your health history and places you have traveled.
  • We will check your temperature, pulse, blood pressure and hemoglobin level present in a sample of blood.

Step 3: The Donation

Donation Process for Automated Collections - Step 3 - The Donation

  • The apheresis donation process uses smaller needles than a traditional whole blood donation.
  • The collection instrument draws blood from one arm through sterile tubing into a cell separator centrifuge. The self-contained sterile tubing assures that your blood never comes in contact with the instrument.
  • Typically, double red cell donations are a single-arm procedure. Platelet donations may be a single or dual arm procedure depending on the collection device used. For a dual procedure, one arm is used for drawing the necessary blood components and the other arm is used for returning any unused components. For a single arm procedure only one arm is used for both collections and return.
  • The blood components that are not used are returned to you with an anticoagulant to prevent clotting and saline to replenish lost fluids.
  • The collection instrument draws blood from one arm through sterile tubing into a cell separator centrifuge. The self-contained sterile tubing assures that your blood never comes in contact with the instrument.
  • The actual double red cell donation takes about 35 minutes for most donors.
  • The actual platelet donation process takes about 1½  - 2  hours for most donors, depending on the number of patient doses that can be safely collected.
  • To pass the time while you donate, you may listen to music or simply relax during the donation process. Most American Red Cross Donation Centers also offer TVs or DVD players. WiFi is also available at some locations.
  • When the blood components have been collected, the donation is complete and a staff person will place a bandage on your arm(s).

Step 4: Refreshments

Donation Process for Automated Collections - Step 4 - Refreshments

  • After donating, you should have a snack and something to drink in the refreshments area.
  • You can leave the site after 10-15 miunutes (recovery time varies by state) and resume your normal activities. Avoid heavy lifting or strenuous exercise that day.
  • Enjoy the feeling of accomplishment knowing that you have helped save lives.