Approximately 60,000 units of blood and 15,000 units of platelets are used on neonatal units every year in the UK. Platelets found in our blood help the body to prevent or stop bleeding; and are crucial in helping premature babies.
Premature babies can have a low platelet count for many reasons such as infections or maternal health problems during pregnancy. A baby with a very low platelet count may be at risk of severe bleeding problems, so they can need many transfusions over the course of their recovery period.
The Biology -
Blood is made up of red cells, platelets and plasma. Platelets are very small cells in the blood which work as the clotting factors in plasma to form a mesh “plug” to stop or prevent bleeding. Platelets can be donated more frequently than whole blood because no red cells are taken, so iron levels are not affected.
Platelet donation is a specialised process and not everybody who is a blood donor can give platelets. Donors are linked to a machine which takes their blood and separates the platelets. These are collected while the rest of the blood is returned to the donor.
A single donation can give enough platelets to provide up to 12 small doses of platelets for babies or young children.
Platelets have a shelf life of only five days, so donors are in great demand!
Want to know more?
Platelet donors need to be 18 - 60 years old (65 for regular donors), weigh over 9 ½ stone (60kg) and to have donated blood successfully at least once.
The blood service particularly needs blood group ‘A’ and ‘O’ donors.
Men are especially needed as they are more likely to be suitable for double or triple dose platelet donation than women because they have a larger blood volume.
Look online or call the National Blood Service on 0300 123 23 23 www.blood.co.uk