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What Is the Difference Between Donating Blood and Donating Plasma?

March 24, 2021

Blood donation and plasma donation are both incredible acts that can help save lives. Given the fact that plasma is the main component of blood, these two processes are often confused with one another. While they do share some similarities, in actuality, they are quite different. Read on to learn more about the difference between blood donation and plasma donation!

What Is Blood Donation?

Whole blood donations are considered to be the most flexible type of donation. Since whole blood contains red cells, white cells, platelets, and plasma, it can either be separated into its specific components post-donation or transfused in its original form. Donation times for whole blood donations average around eight to 10 minutes.

What Is Plasma Donation?

During a plasma-only donation, plasma, the yellowish liquid component of blood, is separated from blood cells and blood cells are returned to the bloodstream. This is done through a process known as plasmapheresis, which involves donors being intravenously connected to a medical device known as an apheresis machine. The plasmapheresis portion of the plasma donation process takes approximately 50 minutes to complete.

The Main Differences Between Donating Blood and Donating Plasma

Besides the differences in the blood donation and plasma donation processes, there are also major differences between the two when it comes to their end uses and donor compensation.

When whole blood is separated into its individual components, it can be used to treat cancer patients and patients with rare diseases, depending on the blood component that is being used. Plasma donations, on the other hand, are used to manufacture life-saving treatments for patients with autoimmune disorders, immunodeficiencies, and blood disorders. People who receive plasma-derived treatments, including intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) therapies, must do so on a regular basis and they rely on these treatments to manage their conditions.

In terms of compensation, blood donors are not compensated for their contributions in Canada. Some provinces in Canada, however, do permit paid plasma donations.

Since plasma donation is a more time-consuming process than blood donation, it makes sense that plasma donors would be compensated for their time and effort. Plasma donors are also able to donate much more frequently than blood donors are due to the fact that blood cells are returned to the donor during the plasma donation process, which is yet another reason why they should be compensated. Plasma donors can safely donate twice a week whereas male blood donors can only donate once every eight weeks and female blood donors can only donate once every twelve weeks.  

In addition, compensating plasma donors has been proven to be the only way to make sure there’s a secure supply of plasma for patients who need it. At Canadian Plasma Resources, we’re proud to offer paid plasma donations at our centres in Saskatoon and Moncton, and we plan to continue this practice as we expand our business.

Now that you’re well aware of the differences between donating blood and donating plasma, we hope you can go into your donation appointment feeling more prepared. We’re always happy to accept new donors at Canadian Plasma Resources, so feel free to book an appointment at a centre near you!