Does Donating Plasma Leave Scars?


Matthew McClain

Yes, plasma donation can potentially result in scarring. However, the likelihood of scarring depends on various factors, such as the person’s skin type and the technique used for the donation. While some mild scarring may occur, it is typically minimal and not noticeable.

How Plasma Donation Works

The process of plasma donation involves using a needle to access the donor’s bloodstream and then separating out the plasma component using a centrifuge machine. Blood is drawn from the donor’s arm through a needle into a machine called a plasma separator. This machine uses centrifugal force to separate the blood into its components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma.

Once the plasma is collected, the remaining components of the blood (red and white blood cells) are returned to the donor through the same needle. The plasma itself, a straw-colored liquid, is the blood’s liquid portion that carries proteins and other substances within the bloodstream. Plasma makes up around 55% of the total blood volume in the body, so donating plasma is a safe and easy way to help patients in need of plasma-based therapies and medications.

Factors That Contribute to Scar Formation

While plasma donation typically does not result in significant scarring, several factors can increase the likelihood of minor scarring around the needle insertion site. These include:

1. Skin type

People with sensitive or thinner skin are more prone to forming small scabs and scars after needle sticks. Those with fair, sensitive skin may take longer for small needle wounds to heal than someone with thicker skin. The formation of scabs during the initial healing phase increases the chances of minor scarring over time.

2. Needle insertion technique

Improper insertion or movement of the needle during plasma donation can damage skin tissue and small blood vessels. This tissue trauma is a major contributor to scar formation. If the needle is not inserted smoothly and securely in one swift motion, it increases the risk of irritation and scabbing that can lead to scarring. The technicians inserting the needles should be trained to minimize needle movement once inserted.

3. Number of donations

The more frequently a donor gives plasma, the greater the chance of minor scarring from repeated needle insertions in similar locations on the arm. Each needle stick causes a certain amount of trauma to the skin, even if done properly. Over time with dozens or hundreds of donations, tiny scars can accumulate around favored needle sites.

4. Allergic reactions

Some donors experience allergic reactions to the materials used during plasma donation, including the anticoagulant in the collection bags, tape, or needle materials. Severe allergic reactions can damage skin tissues and contribute to scar formation around needle sites over time. Donors who experience repeated allergic symptoms with donations should inform the clinic.

5. Infection

While rare, infection at the needle site from plasma donation can delay wound healing and increase scarring. Proper aseptic technique and use of new, sterile needles for each donation helps minimize this risk. Any signs of infection like redness, swelling or drainage should be reported to the donation center immediately.

How Severe Are the Scars?

For the vast majority of plasma donors, any scarring associated with donations is minor and typically not noticeable. Most commonly, donors experience one or more of the following:

  • Pinpoint scars – These are the smallest type of scars, appearing as tiny dots around previous needle insertion sites. They are only visible up close and measure just 1-2mm in diameter. Pinpoint scars tend to form due to repeated insertions into the same vein over time, as the skin’s ability to heal properly each time is reduced. However, pinpoint scars often fade significantly within the first year after donating.
  • Linear scars – These thin, straight lines measure only a few millimeters wide and represent where a needle was inserted improperly at an angle. While more visible than pinpoint scars, linear scars around plasma donation needle sites are still quite minor. As with pinpoint scars, they typically fade notably within 6 to 12 months.
  • Small hypopigmented areas – Some donors develop areas of lighter skin pigmentation around needle sites due to disrupted melanin production during healing. These hypopigmented patches are also minor, measuring only a few millimeters wide. They often improves somewhat over the first year but generally do not resolve completely.

Severe scarring from plasma donation is very uncommon but can potentially occur when:

  • The donor has a genetic propensity for forming thick, raised scars known as keloids. This trait affects only around 5-15% of the population.
  • The needle causes significant tissue damage due to improper insertion or excessive movement during donation. This can result in thicker scars that are more resistant to fading over time.
  • The donor experiences a serious allergic reaction or infection at the needle site that delays proper wound healing. Poorly healing wounds have an increased potential to form thick, persistent scars.

However, for the vast majority of plasma donors, any scarring they do experience from donations falls into the minor category of only pinpoint scars, linear scars, or small hypopigmented areas. Donors should try not to worry excessively about scarring when deciding to donate plasma, but they should inform the donation center of any existing skin conditions that could increase their risk.

How to Minimize Scarring

Here are some ways donors can minimize the risk of scarring from plasma donation:

  • Use proper skin care and moisturizer before and after donations. Applying a lightweight, non-greasy moisturizer to the arm immediately after donating can help soothe tiny wounds from the needle and promote proper healing. Some moisturizers also contain ingredients that specifically target scar reduction. Continue applying the moisturizer daily for a few weeks following donation, especially at night.
  • Always inform the technician of any skin sensitivities. Conditions like eczema or skin picking disorder can affect how well needle wounds heal. Letting the technicians know up front allows them to take extra care when inserting the needle and during the donation process.
  • Avoid donating in the same spot for long periods. While it can be convenient, inserting needles in the exact same vein over and over increases the chances of scarring. Ask the technician to rotate donation sites between appointments to give each area time to heal properly. Even alternating between left and right arm each time can help reduce scarring risks.
  • Apply light pressure to the needle site for several minutes after removal. This helps blood vessels constrict and minimizes any oozing of blood from the needle hole. Less blood left under the skin after donating decreases the potential for scab and scar formation. Ask the technician or medical assistant for pressure for at least 5 minutes following the donation.
  • Use scar-reducing ointments after the fact. If scarring does occur, products containing silicone, vitamin E, or caffeine (among other ingredients) have been shown to help minimize the appearance of new scars. These ointments help improve the skin’s elasticity and flatten out existing scars. Application should begin as soon as the donor is able.

Overall, following these practices can help reduce donors’ chances of experiencing even minor scarring from plasma donation. But again, most donors find that any scarring they do get is minimal and not very noticeable. By communicating openly with the donation center’s staff and following their recommendations, donors can maximize their chances of healing cleanly from each needle stick.

In conclusion, while donating plasma can potentially result in minor scarring around the needle sites, the likelihood and severity of scarring depends on various factors. For most donors, any scarring they experience is typically minimal in the form of small pinpoint or linear scars that fade over time. Only a small percentage encounter more noticeable scarring issues.

By following the recommendations outlined in this article, donors can further reduce their risk of long-term scarring from plasma donations.


1. How often can I safely donate plasma?

You can donate plasma as often as twice a week, though some centers limit donations to once per week. FDA guidelines indicate up to 104 donations per year is safe.

2. How many milliliters of plasma can I donate at once?

Plasma donations typically collect between 650-850 mL of plasma per donation, depending on factors like body weight and previous donations.

3. Should I eat or drink before donating plasma?

It is recommended to eat a meal and drink plenty of water at least 2 hours before your plasma donation. This helps make the process easier on your body.

4. How long does it take to donate plasma?

A typical plasma donation takes about 1.5 to 2 hours from check-in to completion, including the required screening, donation process, and post-donation recovery period.

5. Does donating plasma weaken veins?

When performed properly by trained staff, plasma donation should not permanently damage or weaken veins. However, repeated plasma donations in the same location may make that specific vein more prone to damage or collapse over time.

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