How Does Your Donated Blood Get to a Patient in Need?

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We all know donating blood saves lives, but do you know what happens to your blood after you’ve donated? While donating blood is a fairly simple process, once it’s collected, your donation will go through many steps before it reaches a patient in need.

At Cedars-Sinai, donated blood is tested and processed by our Blood Donor Services team.

“Community blood donors serve as a lifeline for our patients.”

First, the whole blood (what’s taken out of your arm) is spun to separate out its components—red blood cells and plasma. Our blood donation center collects platelets for transfusion through a different method called apheresis, a process of simultaneously removing platelets from a donor’s blood and returning the blood to the donor.

After the blood is separated, more than a dozen tests are performed to ensure it’s safe to use. Once all the testing is complete, the components are stored until patients need them.

“Blood can only be stored for 6 weeks,” says Dr. Ellen Klapper, director of Transfusion Medicine at Cedars-Sinai. “It is crucial that we have people donate regularly to assure a ready supply of blood for our patients.”

Many of the medical and surgical treatments provided at Cedars-Sinai require blood, including organ transplantation, cardiac surgery, and care during a major trauma.


Read: Donating Blood During a Disaster: How It Helps


When blood is needed, a request is sent to the transfusion services team and the lab staff finds blood matching the patient’s type. Then the blood is sent to where it’s needed using a system of pneumatic tubes that runs throughout the hospital.

“Community blood donors serve as a lifeline for our patients,” Dr. Klapper says. “Blood cannot be manufactured or bought, so we are truly grateful to our blood donors for their generosity.”

Ready to make a blood donation?

Here are some tips on how to prepare:

  • Maintain healthy iron levels by eating iron-rich foods [PDF] such as red meat, fish, poultry, beans, spinach, iron-fortified cereals, and raisins.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol consumption before your donation.
  • Eat normally and drink extra fluids before and after your donation.
  • If you are donating platelets, remember that you cannot take aspirin for 2 days prior to the donation.
  • Bring your driver’s license or another form of photo ID.

For more information or to make an appointment to donate blood, call 310-423-5346 or visit Cedars-Sinai Blood Donor Services.

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