Penn State Hershey seeks local platelet donors

Apheresis platelets have been collected at Penn State Hershey Medical Center since 2007 and HLA-compatible platelets obtained from a regional blood center have been provided for many years, but more donors are needed.

 “We see a wide range of complex patients, including cancer patients, traumas and surgeries that all use significant amounts of blood products including platelets,” said Dr. Melissa George, medical director of transfusion medicine and apheresis.

The Medical Center locally collects only 10 percent of the platelets needed for its patients. Most of the platelets come from other regional blood centers.

“When the hospital has to buy platelets, it is very expensive. By having donations here, we save lots of money,” said Dr. Wallace Greene.

Greene has been donating platelets for about 20 years, and has worked for Penn State Hershey for more than 25 years.

“As the population ages and we have more people on treatments that suppress platelet production, the need for platelets is increasing,” said Greene. He started donating when he was in college because his father and father-in-law were taking medications that made them ineligible to donate, so he donated for them.

A whole blood donation provides red blood cells, plasma and one-fifth of an average-sized platelet dose. An apheresis platelet collection can provide one to three doses of platelets depending on the donor. One apheresis platelet donation may help up to three patients whereas it takes four to six whole blood donations to produce a single dose of platelets. Donors can give platelet donations as frequently as every two weeks. Donors can only give whole blood donations every eight weeks.

During apheresis platelet donation, a small portion of the blood is drawn from the arm and passed through a sophisticated cell-separating machine. The machine collects the platelets and safely returns the remaining blood components, along with some saline, back into the arm. The donation process takes two-to-three hours to complete.

HLA-compatible platelets are collected using the apheresis process. Some patients have formed antibodies against certain human leukocyte antigens (HLA) either through previous pregnancy or transfusion. These antibodies can destroy platelets that contain the corresponding antigens. These patients need a HLA-compatible platelet donation.

Apheresis platelet donations are given to any patient in need of platelet transfusion, but HLA-compatible platelet donations are collected for a specific patient in need of platelets that lack the HLA antigens to which he or she has antibodies against. The donation center calls a donor when there is a need for their type of blood.

“This is a more personal way to donate, knowing that a specific patient needs your platelets. While the identity of the patient will not be revealed, the donor will know that his or her platelets are going to a particular patient in need,” said George.

For more information about donor criteria, scheduling and the procedure itself, call the blood bank donor center at 717-531-8232. The donor center is located at 35 Hope Drive.

Last Updated October 22, 2014