Plasma is the liquid portion of blood – a protein-salt solution in which red and white blood cells and platelets are suspended. Plasma, which is 92 percent water, constitutes 55 percent of blood volume. Plasma contains albumin (the chief protein constituent), fibrinogen (responsible, in part, for the clotting of blood) and globulins (including antibodies). Plasma serves a variety of functions, from maintaining a satisfactory blood pressure and volume to supplying critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity. It also serves as the medium for exchange of vital minerals such as sodium and potassium and helps to maintain a proper pH (acid-base) balance in the body, which is critical to cell function. Plasma is obtained by separating the liquid portion of blood from the cells.
Plasma is frozen quickly after donation (up to 24 hours) to preserve clotting factors, stored up to one year, and thawed shortly before use. It is commonly transfused to trauma patients and patients with severe liver disease or multiple clotting factor deficiencies.
Plasma derivatives are concentrates of specific plasma proteins prepared from pools (many donor units) of plasma. Plasma derivatives are obtained through a process known as fractionation. The derivatives are treated with heat and/or solvent detergent to kill certain viruses like those that cause HIV, hepatitis B, and hepatitis C.
Plasma derivatives include:
- Factor VIII Concentrate
- Factor IX Concentrate
- Anti-Inhibitor Coagulation Complex (AICC)
- Immune Globulins, including Rh Immune Globulin
- Anti-Thrombin III Concentrate
- Alpha 1-Proteinase Inhibitor Concentrate