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Of the blood components that are transfused most (red blood cells, platelets, and plasma), red blood cells are in the greatest demand. The Double Reds donation process uses automated technology to safely collect double the amount of red blood cells versus a regular whole blood donation.
More than 14 million pints of red blood cells are transfused annually in the United States. Patients who need red blood cells include trauma patients, people undergoing surgery, cancer patients, and those with anemia (including sickle-cell anemia).
Double Red donations use a type of technology called apheresis (pronounced “a-fur-e-siss”). Rather than collecting the blood directly into a blood bag, the donor’s blood first flows into the cell separator machine, which separates the blood’s components. Red blood cells are collected in a blood bag, and the remaining components are returned to the donor. The donor also receives a small amount of sterile saline fluid to make up for the blood volume loss. The donation takes about twice as long as a whole blood donation (about 20-25 minutes).
Double Red donations are a closed, sterile system utilizing single-use disposable needles and plastic tubing. Apheresis technology has been used for over 20 years, safely providing millions of units of blood components to patients in need.
The donation process uses a smaller needle than a whole blood donation, so you might find it more comfortable. Many donors report feeling better after a Double Reds donation compared to a whole blood donation, because the saline fluid compensates for blood volume loss.
Due to differences in blood volumes, there are different minimum criteria for men and women to donate Double Reds. The red blood cells in greatest demand are Type O and B, so generally Double Reds donors are Type O or B.
Men: at least 5'1", 130 lbs
Women: at least 5'5", 150 lbs
The procedure for a Double Red donation is similar to a whole blood donation. First the donor tech conducts a private screening interview. Then you go through a mini-physical to check your temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and hemoglobin. Next you move to the machine and make your donation, which takes about 25 minutes. Afterwards you enjoy refreshments in the canteen area. It helps to eat a well-balanced meal beforehand, including foods that are high in iron but avoid consuming fatty foods and dairy products.
Several of The Blood Center’s donor centers have Double Red machines. You do not need to make an appointment, just stop on in! For locations and hours, call (800) 86-BLOOD or click here. Many of The Blood Center’s mobile drives also offer Double Red donations!
Since a Double Red donation collects twice as many red blood cells as a whole blood donation, donors are deferred for twice as long - sixteen weeks.