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Picking apart blood—plasma

plasmaBlood is a complex mixture of cells and fluid and is responsible for transporting important nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and waste products to and away from our cells.

There are many characteristics of blood, and its composition can be broken down into red blood cells, platelets, and the liquid portion called plasma.

Scott & White Pathologist Walter J. Linz, MD, MBA  specializes in transfusion medicine and helps explain a little more about plasma.

“Blood is composed of both cells (red blood cells and platelets) and plasma,” says Dr. Linz. “Plasma is the liquid portion which contains proteins such as coagulation factors which are essential to blood clotting. The cell either transport oxygen or help with clotting (platelets).”

Importance of Blood and Plasma

“Every two seconds, someone in the US needs a blood transfusion, but fewer than 5% of healthy Americans eligible to donate blood actually donate each year,” explains Gina Sawyer, Scott & White Donor Services Recruiter.

There is a vital need for continuous donations of blood, and when you donate, plasma is also collected.

The Scott & White Blood Center deals with whole blood donations. After whole blood is collected, it can then be split between cells and plasma. They collect platelets separately. Nearly 400 units of blood are needed each week to meet Scott & White’s needs.

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“Committed blood donors should keep donating – hopefully four times a year,” encourages Dr. Linz. “Those who have never donated and are eligible to do so should at least try a whole blood collection once.”

Functions of Plasma

After receiving the whole blood donation, Scott & White’s team will create and distribute the components as needed. Plasma donations are often used when someone has the inability to control blood clotting, also called coagulation disorders.

“Patients usually need red blood cells, often platelets and typically plasma,” says Dr. Linz.

Plasma has a yellowish coloring and is the liquid competent of our blood, constituting 55% of the total blood volume. Because it is the fluid component of our blood, it specifically:

  • Transports essential nutrients, hormones, waste and other substances.
  • Aids in clotting.
  • Assists with immune functions.
  • Serves as the protein reserve for your body.

Your plasma can regenerate fairly quickly, in most cases within about 24 hours. If you are interested in a whole blood donation, be sure to drink plenty of water. You will be screened to insure proper health and safety, and you will be giving back to your community.

Donated plasma can be used for making medications to help control the thickness or stickiness of blood, or blood viscosity. If you’ve lost a great deal of blood in a surgery or an accident, or if you have an impaired immune system you may benefit from these transfusion products.

About the author

Jill Taylor
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I contribute content and skills as a freelance writer for Baylor Scott & White Health. I enjoy improving our connection with our readers, patients and communities by assisting with a wide range of writing projects.

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Picking apart blood—plasma