Twice As Many Red Blood Cells Collected in One Sitting at Stanford Blood Center

Attention News Desk: Press Release (for immediate release)
Michele Hyndman (650) 723-8237

STANFORD, Calif. – Under a new program at the Stanford Blood Center, donors can now give twice as many red blood cells in one sitting and walk away with little or no discomfort while losing no more blood volume than with a whole blood donation.

The system uses a process called automated blood collection (ABC), also known as apheresis, in which the various components of the blood are separated by a centrifuge. Red blood cells are relatively easy to extract as they are heavier than other components of blood and naturally drop to the bottom when subjected to the centrifuge, said Susan Galel, MD, director of clinical operations at the blood center.

While the machine collects the red cells, it reinfuses the donor's plasma and platelets back into the body, along with a saline solution to replace lost fluid volume. "Studies show that the donors feel better after apheresis donations because they get fluid back during the process. So when they walk out of here, they don't feel like they've given blood at all," she said. The entire process takes about 25 minutes.

In one visit, donors can give two half-pints of red cells, compared to the usual one pint of whole blood, which contains a half-pint of red cells and a half-pint of plasma, Galel said.

"Patients need more red cells than plasma, so it's a much more valuable contribution to patients," she said. "Donors can give twice as many red cells."

ABC is not new to the blood center; the method has been used for decades to extract hard-to-find platelets from donors, a process that takes about 80 minutes. As blood centers around the country have become increasingly pressed for donations, ABC is being adapted to step up collections of iron-rich red cells as well.

"As our donor base decreases, we have to find more ways to make the most of each donor's visit and this is one way to do it," said Michael Sage, a supervisor at the center.

The blood center has spent the last several months preparing and testing the new ABC procedure for use with the general public. Longtime blood donor George Mount, a software engineer from Palo Alto, was among the first to donate two red blood cell units with the new system. After a gentle needle poke in his right arm from collections technician Sigrid Morris, two units of red blood cells were collected from Mount while he watched television. Unlike standard donors, ABC donors also get the benefit of being able to watch movies or TV shows to help pass the time. Mount said he felt pretty good during the process.

"I've got the best job in the house - lying here with a nice warm blanket," he said. He added that he rarely experiences any ill effects after donating and did not notice any difference in how he felt afterwards. "It was easy," he said after the procedure as he munched on pretzels and chocolates.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set specific weight and height requirements for donors who can undergo the double red cell procedure. Most men qualify because of their relatively large size, Galel said.

"The technology is primarily applicable to men because they tend to be bigger and have much larger blood volumes than women," she said.

Donors must also wait 16 weeks, rather than the usual eight, before giving red cells again, Galel said. This is an advantage to busy donors who want to give two units of red blood cells with only one trip to the center.

The procedure is available at the blood center's offices at 780 Welch Road, Suite 100, in Palo Alto.

Eligible donors in good health with no cold or flu symptoms are urged to make an appointment to give blood. They must eat well prior to donating, drink fluids and present photo ID at the time of donation. For more information, including updated maps and hours, or to schedule an appointment, please visit or call (888) 723-7831 or (650) 723-7831.

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Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at