Plasma donation is a safe and important procedure that involves the donation of plasma, the liquid part of blood. Plasma is used to make life-saving medications, such as clotting factors, antibodies, and albumin.
The average time to donate plasma is about 45 minutes. However, the speed of plasma donation can vary depending on a number of factors, such as the size of your veins, your hydration level, and your overall health.
Top 5 Ways To Donate Plasma Faster
1. Use A Ball or Squeezer
Plasma donation can be a time-consuming process, with most donations taking around 30-45 minutes. By using these squeeze balls before your appointment, you can help strengthen your hands and improve your circulation.
This set of 3 balls includes different resistance levels so you can build up your hand strength over time. Simply squeeze each ball for a few minutes per day. The improved grip strength and blood flow will allow the plasma machine to extract plasma from your blood more quickly during your next donation.
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Squeezing a stress ball, sponge ball or hand squeezer rhythmically while donating plasma can significantly increase your blood flow into the needle and accelerate collection rates. Here’s how it works:
- Contracting your arm muscles with squeezing temporarily compresses surrounding veins.
- This compression forces more blood through the nearby veins that feed into the donation needle.
- The resulting higher venous outflow allows for faster plasma exit from your body.
- Squeezing once every 5-10 seconds in time with your breathing tends to provide the best results.
- This rhythmic squeezing can increase your collection rate by 15% to 20% on average.
Many donors are able to squeeze the ball while doing sedentary activities like reading or using their phone, making the technique practically effortless. Blood flow monitors will also alert staff if squeezing causes blood pressure abnormalities.
2. Increase Fluid Intake
Being well hydrated before and during your plasma donation helps speed up the process in a few key ways:
- Larger blood volume: Drinking plenty of water in the days leading up to your appointment increases your total blood volume. This larger supply of blood can then feed into the collection needle at a faster rate, accelerating plasma separation.
- Dilated veins: Being hydrated also slightly dilates your veins due to increased blood volume and pressure. This makes it easier for fluids to flow through your vascular system and to the donation needle.
- Higher flow rate: The combination of extra blood and dilated veins allows for more plasma to exit your body per minute through the needle. This directly speeds up the overall collection process.
- Clearer plasma: More diluted plasma separates from your red and white blood cells more easily within the collection machine. This allows the machine to run at higher flow rates.
These are some tips for how to drink before donating plasma:
- 10 to 12 cups or 2.4 to 3 liters of total fluid in the 1 to 2 days before your appointment.
- Sipping on water regularly throughout your donation can also help maintain blood volume and flow rate.
- Most of this fluid intake should consist of water or other non-caffeinated, unsweetened beverages.
These tips can help maximize the benefits of hydration to accelerate your plasma collection by 15% to 20% on average.
3. Avoid High-Fat Foods
Consuming high-fat meals within a few hours of donating plasma can potentially slow down the separation of plasma from your blood cells during the collection process. Here are a few reasons why:
- Fats take longer to digest – Since fat digestion typically takes 2-3 hours, any fatty foods you eat close to your donation may still be partially digested when your blood is collected. This can coat your red blood cells and make separation from plasma more difficult.
- Fats coat the separation membrane – The fatty acids from partially digested fats can coat the membrane inside the plasma collection machine that separates plasma from blood cells. This makes the membrane less efficient and able to separate plasma at a faster rate.
- Fattier blood is “sludgier” – Blood with higher fat content from a recent meal tends to be thicker and less able to flow smoothly through the collection machine’s tubing and filters at optimum speeds.
- Elevated triglycerides – Consuming excess fats can temporarily raise your triglyceride levels, which are blood fats. This may further slow down blood flow and separation within the machine.
So to maximize plasma collection speed, donors are often advised to avoid high-fat meals for at least 4 to 6 hours prior to donating plasma. Some foods instead for:
- Lean protein sources like chicken, fish and eggs
- Complex carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy vegetables
- Non-starchy vegetables and fruits
4. Stay Warm
Keeping your body at an optimum temperature while donating plasma can help speed up the process in a few ways:
- Higher Circulation – Mild warmth causes blood vessels to dilate, lowering your vascular resistance and allowing for freer blood flow. This increases your overall circulation rate, feeding more blood into the collection needle per minute.
- Faster Clotting – Warmth within your normal temperature range can slightly accelerate your blood’s clotting process. Since clotting platelets are not collected along with plasma, faster clotting of your blood may allow for a higher collection rate.
- Less Shivering – Shivering due to cold can tense muscles in your donation arm, constricting veins and slowing venous blood flow into the needle. Maintaining a warmer temperature can prevent uncomfortable shivering and cold stress.
To stay warm during your plasma donation:
- Wear lightweight, layered clothing to trap some body heat.
- Consider using a blanket provided by the donation center.
- Drink hot beverages like tea or broth.
- Ask for a heating pad for your donation arm.
- Request that the donation center turn up the temperature if possible.
Most importantly, communicate with the medical staff if you feel too cold at any point. They can make adjustments to keep you at your optimum comfort and temperature zone for the fastest and safest plasma collection.
Aiming for a internal body temperature around 35 to 36°C is ideal for most donors.
Any higher may cause discomfort, and any lower could slow down your circulation. So maintaining a warm but not hot temperature allows your body to function at its most efficient rate for plasma collection.
5. Keep Your Arm Relaxed
Beyond squeezing a ball, simple muscle relaxation throughout your arm can also help speed up plasma donation:
- Relaxing both large and small muscles in that arm, including your hand, allows for freer blood flow into the needle.
- Taking deep, rhythmic breaths can promote relaxation throughout your donation arm and body.
- Avoid crossing your donation arm over your body, as this can involuntarily tense muscles.
- Communicate with staff if you feel tense at any point, as they may be able to reposition you or the needle for added comfort.
Combining venous augmentation through squeezing with overall arm relaxation can maximize your blood flow rate and plasma collection speed during donation.
Some Things to Avoid During Plasma Donation to Make the Process Faster
Here are some things plasma donors should avoid during donation to accelerate the process:
- Tensing the donation arm – Flexing or clenching muscles in the arm being used for donation can constrict veins and slow blood flow into the needle. Keep the arm as relaxed as possible.
- Crossing the donation arm – Crossing the other arm over the donation arm or using it to support the head can involuntarily tense muscles and restrict blood flow.
- Caffeinated beverages – Caffeine is a vasoconstrictor that can temporarily narrow veins and lower blood volume, slowing donation rates. Avoid caffeine for at least 4 hours beforehand.
- High-fat, greasy foods – Fattier blood takes longer to separate plasma from cells within the machine. Avoid high-fat meals for 4-6 hours before donation.
- Cold temperatures – Being cold can cause the body to shiver and tense muscles, reducing blood flow. Wear layers and request warmth from staff to promote dilation of veins.
- Excessive talking – Extended conversation can tense neck and shoulder muscles, which are connected to arm veins. Limit unnecessary talking during donation.
- Distraction – Staying focused on the process and following staff instructions carefully helps ensure faster donation rates and yields. Avoid being distracted.
- Smoking – Smoking can constrict your veins and make it difficult to find a vein to draw blood from.
Steering clear of muscle tension, caffeine, cold stress, high-fat foods and distractions during plasma donation can help promote optimally dilated veins, larger blood volume and freer blood flow – all of which accelerate the separation and collection of plasma. But always listen to and communicate with medical staff for the safest and most effective strategies specific to you.
In summary, there are a number of methods plasma donors can use to accelerate their donation process and increase their yields, including: hydrating well before donation, avoiding high-fat meals, staying warm, squeezing a stress ball, keeping the arm relaxed,… Each of these strategies helps promote larger blood volume, dilated veins, and freer blood flow into the collection needle.
While faster donations are ideal for donors’ convenience, the most important thing is to follow the guidelines and techniques recommended by the donation center’s medical staff. They will monitor you closely throughout the process to ensure you employ the strategies safely and effectively. With proper guidance, communication, and monitoring, plasma donors can typically decrease their donation times by 15% to 30% on average through venous augmentation and optimized conditions.
1. How long before donation should I eat?
Avoid eating large meals within 2-4 hours of donation. Stick with lighter snacks that are low in fat and high in carbs/protein.
2. How much water should I drink the day of donation?
Drinking 12-16 oz of water in the 1-2 hours before donating helps you be optimally hydrated. Sipping on water throughout the donation can also be beneficial.
3. Will a heating pad increase my blood flow?
Yes! Applying moderate heat to the donation area, especially the arm, dilates veins and increases blood circulation, which can accelerate plasma collection.
4. Can I get dizzy from donating faster?
Some donors may experience mild dizziness if the collection rate is too fast. Always communicate with staff if you feel dizzy at any point so they can adjust the flow rate to a comfortable level for you.
5. How long should I squeeze the ball for?
Squeezing once every 5-10 seconds in rhythm with your breathing tends to provide the optimal balance of venous compression and relaxation for faster plasma flow.