Generally, plasma donation takes about an hour, platelets take one to two hours to donate, and red blood cells take about 30 minutes.
Plasma takes a little longer than giving whole blood, but they both take time. The donor screening takes about 15 minutes. It will take up to 20 minutes to be called back. Only 30 to 35 minutes of the donation process is spent actually giving plasma.
I was told on multiple occasions by the staff on the donation floor, and the nurse working there, that some people take longer because their plasma is thick (not fully hydrated), or the needle gets pushed too far into the vein, getting too close to the wall of the vein or touching the side of it.
There are several factors that affect how long it takes:
- Your weight. Generally, the more weight you gain, the greater the plasma volume and the longer the donation takes. The amount of money you make reflects this.
- Your iron levels. Iron levels increase hematocrit, a blood bonding agent that makes red blood cells more "slippery." Having higher levels of iron makes for faster donation times. It typically takes at least a few weeks of increased iron intake to affect an individual's hematocrit level.
- You're dehydrated. If you are not drinking enough water throughout the day it will make your blood thicker. In addition, drinking caffeine, coffee / soda / tea, or other sugars, makes your donation thicker due to lack of blood circulation, so it takes time to donate and in some cases pain increases.
- Lack of exercise/bad diet. Fat-rich food makes plasma thicker, makes it harder to pass through the machine, and it takes more time to donate. I actually saw a donor clog the plasma machine once, because their plasma was so thick from a diet like this.
- You're a first-time donor. The first plasma donation at any center involves showing your SS card, answering a lengthy questionaire, and getting a physical. First time donations can take up to 3 hours time at the plasma center. You may have to disregard the first donation as I'm told it takes two visits to see your "average" time.
- You went on the weekend. It takes me 43 minutes to complete my donation when I go Wednesdays and Fridays. If I go on the weekends (CSL plasma's busiest days) it takes me 2 hours to donate.
- You got a bad needle stick. During your visit, a bigger needle than the one used for whole blood is inserted into the vein, and blood is drawn. When the needle is sitting too far in your vein, donation time increases, and pain and scarring can occur. This can usually be corrected by changing the position of the needle in the vein. Some veins are harder to hit than other veins and all veins have different anchoring techniques.
- You got an old plasmapheresis machine. An apheresis machine spins the blood very fast in a small centrifuge to separate out the plasma. Over time, this spinning arm can break down and go slower (just like the spinning disk in a hard drive.) This lengthens the time taken for donors unlucky enough to get these machines.
Plasma Screening Process
After the initial plasma donation, visiting time will be shortened to simply checking your red blood cell count, protein, blood pressure, pulse rate, body temperature and weight. It is necessary to ask screening questions for all donors every time. We do screening every time you donate to confirm that you are generally healthy and meet plasma donation standards.
Vitals are taken (blood pressure, pulse, temperature, weight), veins are inspected for donation viability (but if our phlebotomists did not like them, the donor could try another plasma centre) and there is a visual inspection in the druggie hotspots of the body for needle marks.
I'm working full-time and I'm in college, but I still have time and I sell my plasma whenever I feel like it. If I don't have something good to do that day, I can relax myself for an hour and receive as much as 30 dollars at the same time.
It takes me around 45 minutes to donate once the needle is stuck in my arm, but waiting in the long lines to donate can take you aprox 1 1/2 to 2 hrs to complete your entire donation visit being you have to login to their computers and answer a serious of questions each donation visit. Plus, they have to check your protein, iron, weight, blood pressure, temperature, ect and then if you pass through all those pre-requirements you are elgible to donate for that day.
Yes, there is a screening process that will affect how long it takes to donate, but the screening will take about 5 to 15 minutes. Depending on the level of experience, center management, workload, it's almost always less than 5 minutes. In order to pass the time, most plasma donation centers have free Wi-Fi and TV.