In spite of all the risks associated with it, plasma donation has gained wide popularity primarily because of two reasons; first, it helps in saving lives, and second, people have started considering it a source of income. If you are contemplating the idea of donating blood plasma, you need to be aware of various risks involved.
It may not be as popular as blood donation, but plasma donation, wherein the plasma is separated from the whole blood and donated, is a popular practice in the United States. A vital constituent of the blood, plasma can be used to relieve coagulation problems, ease burns, and even treat diseases that target the immune system. In the US, blood plasma donation centers typically pay USD 20 – 50 each time an individual donates plasma. That explains why the practice has become so popular among students and youths of late.
What is Plasma Donation?
Plasma is the yellowish liquid constituent of the blood, which transports vital substances in the blood all over the body. (For instance, red and white blood cells are suspended in it and circulated to the different parts of the body.) Mainly made of water and various proteins, it is essential for various body mechanisms. Its deficit can lead to adverse effects on the body leading to further complications, and hence, it calls for prompt blood plasma transfusion.
The process by which plasma is extracted from blood is referred to as plasmapheresis. This is done using a machine which separates the yellowish liquid from the blood cells and collects it for further use. Unlike in the case of whole blood donation, wherein the donor typically donates a significant amount of blood, in this case, a machine collects the whole blood, separates the plasma from it, and returns the blood to the donor.
Blood Plasma Donation Risks
In general, the side effects of this process include dizziness, fainting, nausea, and at times, a shock resulting from blood loss. These side effects may differ from individual to individual, depending on their weight, age, gender, etc. Balanced diet and drinking a lot of water a few hours before plasma donation can minimize the chances of these side effects.
Yet another risk is that of bruising or infection around the site wherein the needle was inserted. One has to monitor the puncture site for a day or two after the process in order to rule out the chances of infection.
Other than these risks, blood plasma donation can also lead to some relatively serious health hazards. An apt example of the same is hemoglobin in the urine. Although the chances are rare, it cannot be ruled out.
A person undergoing plasma donation frequently is more vulnerable to the health risks associated with it. Besides that, donating plasma frequently can lower the amount of proteins in the blood. If this condition is observed in any individual, he can be permanently deferred from donation in future.
Risks for Plasma Recipients
If donors are threatened by all these risks, plasma recipients are not totally safe either. According to a warning issued by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001, the recipients of plasma-related products are at significant risk of contracting a pulmonary syndrome known as the Transfusion Related Acute Lung Injury (TRALI). If a person suffering from TRALI is not treated at the earliest, there are high chances of liquid starting to accumulate in his lungs, which can eventually result in his death.
According to the FDA guidelines, a person can donate plasma every 48 hours, but the frequency should not exceed more than twice a week. Some organizations prefer to take a safer approach and restrict an individual from donating blood plasma more than once in a month or 12 times a year.