What is blood donation used for?

Every day, the French Blood Establishment (EFS) must take 10,000 blood samples to meet the needs of all health establishments in France. The donations of blood, but also of plasma and platelets made daily and resulting from the generosity of healthy donors make it possible to save lives and improve those of patients who cannot do without transfusions of blood products. It should be noted that these blood products have the status of a drug: they will be administered to patients on the prescription of a doctor.

What is blood used for and what is it made of?

Blood is life! It transports oxygen to the smallest corners of the body, but also nutrients (sugar, vitamins, mineral salts) as well as hormones essential for the proper functioning of our organs. Blood is made up of different components, including red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma, each playing a specific role. Thus, for each bag of blood taken during a donation, we will speak of “blood products”, which will be used for different indications. Each patient does not necessarily need all the elements present in the blood, this varies according to the nature of their health problem. There are two main scenarios that require a blood supply: chronic diseases and emergency situations.

For chronic illnesses

Blood diseases account for 40% of prescriptions for blood products. Sickle cell disease, for example, is a genetic disease that requires regular blood flow due to the presence of sickle-shaped red blood cells that quickly deteriorate. Thalassemia is another hereditary disease causing, in its severe form, anemia requiring regular transfusions. In addition, people with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy may also need blood products (platelet and red blood cell transfusions). They even represent 30% of prescriptions, the treatment of cancer by “chemo” leading to a decrease in the production of blood cells by temporarily blocking the activity of the bone marrow.

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In emergency situations

Surgical interventions are obviously an important therapeutic indication for blood products, up to 25% of cases. Indeed, during an operation, a hemorrhage may occur, necessitating a transfusion of red blood cells. Sometimes even if a large amount of blood is lost, it may be necessary to transfuse plasma and platelets to promote clotting and stop the bleeding. Finally, childbirth and accidents are responsible for around 5% of emergency blood product prescriptions.

Donation of blood, platelets, plasma or bone marrow

At a blood donation, you donate red blood cells, platelets and plasma. The conditions for donating blood are as follows: be between 18 and 70 years old, be recognized as suitable for donation by authorized EFS staff (certain long-term or one-off drugs prevent donation or require it to be postponed somewhat. (“Am I eligible for the donation?” – the EFS website) , weigh more than 50 kg and have a sufficient hemoglobin level (thus during the first donation, a dosage will be carried out). It should be noted that people with blood group O are particularly sought after because it is possible to transfuse their red blood cells in all patients, whatever their blood groups; we speak of “universal donors”.

Another type of donation, that of plasma. It is open to all donors. Group AB individuals (only 4% of French people) are also particularly sought after because they are “universal donors” of plasma. People in group B (9% of French people) are also very popular for this type of donation. You should know that by donating your plasma, you are especially helping people with hemophilia and people with bleeding disorders or severe immune deficiency.

The platelet donation is also an option, open to anyone able to donate blood and plasma and whose platelet count is high enough. This type of donation is generally offered to regular donors because the lifespan of platelets is only 5 to 7 days (against 42 days for example for the conservation of red blood cells and one year for plasma). The transfusion of your platelets will be particularly useful for aplastic patients, that is to say those in whom the disease (leukemia, aplastic anemia) or heavy treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy) prevent the bone marrow from correctly making blood cells. Know that every day, 800 platelet donations are needed in France.

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The last type of donation, voluntary bone marrow donation (DVMO) which requires you to be in perfect health, to be between 18 and 35 years old when registering (even if you can donate until your 60s. ). You must also agree to remain reachable and make yourself available for medical examinations (information on dondemoelleosseuse.fr).
There are bound to be EFS branches near you. Want to save lives !? See you soon on dondesang.efs.sante.fr

Did you know ?

1 million patients are treated each year in France thanks to blood donations.
1 blood donation lasts on average 1 hour and will save 3 lives!
Women can donate blood 4 times a year (over a calendar year) and men 6 times.