Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is plasma?

2. How is my plasma used?

3. Why should I donate?

4. Is all plasma the same?

5. How do I know if I can donate?

6. How soon after donating whole blood can someone donate plasma? What about vice versa?

7. If someone is ineligible for blood donation are they also ineligible to donate plasma?

8. What should I expect when donating plasma?

9. What side effects can happen during or after plasma donation?

10. How long does it take to donate plasma?

11. What should I do to prepare myself for a plasma donation?

12. How often can I donate plasma?

13. Will my blood be tested?


1. What is plasma?

Plasma is the clear yellowish fluid portion of the blood that transports water and nutrients to all the cells in the body. It is composed of approximately 90 percent salt water and 10 percent protein and electrolytes. Plasma contains many specialized proteins (antibodies) that aid in fighting infections and can be used to make life saving medical products.

Plasmapheresis is the special process that allows you to donate your plasma while having your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets returned to you.

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2. How is my plasma used?

The plasma that is collected at a Cangene Plasma Resources center is used to manufacture a wide variety of potentially life-saving products that could benefit thousands of people everyday. Your plasma may be used to make immune globulins that prevent or treat diseases like hemolytic disease of the newborn, hepatitis B, or chickenpox. Plasma is also used to make a product that treats complications associated with smallpox vaccinations or to make a product that may treat anthrax infections. Plasma can also be made into reagents for diagnostic test kits used to test for and diagnose disease.

It is important to remember that plasma is not a substance that can be produced in a laboratory or some other artificial environment. It can only be obtained from healthy adults. When you donate plasma, you are helping to save lives.

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3. Why should I donate?

You should donate because your plasma is needed. Hospitals and physicians vitally need high-quality products, and the antibodies used to make them are often in short supply. Knowing you've made a personal contribution toward improving the health of others is one of the most rewarding aspects of donating.

Further, because the time you spend donating plasma is valuable; Cangene Plasma Resources donors are provided compensation for their plasma donations.

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4. Is all plasma the same?

No, plasma is not all the same. Plasma can differ in the kinds of antibodies it contains. Antibodies are a key defence in the immune system and each antibody is specific for the "intruder" that it attacks. If a donor has specific antibodies in sufficient quantities, he or she may be considered a special donor. People may also have unique blood types that make them special as donors.

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5. How do I know if I can donate?

For most specialty plasma programs, you must be 18 years of age or older, meet our minimum weight requirements and be in good health. At your initial appointment, you will receive a physical exam and your medical history will be reviewed. These steps help ensure donating is safe for you and those receiving products produced from your plasma. At every visit, your health will be screened to help you have a safe donation.

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6. How soon after donating whole blood can someone donate plasma? What about vice versa?

After donating a unit of whole blood, the usual recommendation is to wait 8 weeks before donating plasma. After donating plasma, the usual recommendation is to wait 2 to 3 days before donating whole blood, assuming the donor is in good health.

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7. If someone is ineligible for blood donation are they also ineligible to donate plasma?

Typically, most requirements are the same but in some rare instances you may be able to donate plasma if ineligible to donate blood. In most cases, if someone is ineligible for blood donation they are also ineligible for plasma donation as many of the same FDA guidelines apply to both blood and plasma donations.

Click here to contact the Cangene Plasma Resources center nearest you to discuss your eligibility for plasma donation.

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8. What should I expect when donating plasma?

Donations are made through an automated procedure called plasmapheresis. Plasmapheresis is the process of removing whole blood then separating the cellular components from the plasma. The red and white blood cells as well as platelets are returned to the donor and the plasma is retained for use in preparing medical products.

Similar to donating blood, you will be comfortably reclined during the donation. A needle will be placed into a vein in your arm and your blood collected into sterile equipment. The equipment is used once then discarded. It is in this sterile equipment that the plasma is separated from the red and white blood cells and platelets. These blood cells and platelets are returned to you through the same needle in your arm. At the end of the donation, sterile saline will be given to you through the needle to help replace the plasma that was removed from your blood. Because the red blood cells are returned to you and most of the plasma is replaced with saline you won't feel weak or tired after donating.

Our professional medical staff is dedicated to making your visit comfortable and rewarding. You can spend the donation time relaxing, chatting with other donors or catching up on your favorite magazine or book.

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9. What side effects can happen during or after plasma donation?

Side effects are similar to those related to donating blood and most often are the result of donors feeling nervous or anxious about the donation process. Some donors may feel faint or lightheaded during or right after donating plasma. This usually occurs when the donor did not eat or drink enough just before donating. Inserting the needle may cause a bruise. Some donors may have discomfort in the arm during donation from the needle. This can usually be solved by adjusting the needle's position. Some donors may have a metallic taste or tingling in their tongue or feet. If this happens, slowing or stopping the plasma donation will stop the feeling. Allergic reactions could occur, but are rare. People with allergic reactions might have a rash, hives, itching, shortness of breath, or wheezing. If you have any of these feelings during or just after donating, tell the plasma center staff right away. Before donating you will be told about the risks of donating plasma, possible side effects, and be given an opportunity to have your questions answered.

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10. How long does it take to donate plasma?

Your first visit will take approximately two and a half hours. This visit will include a physical exam and donation. The physical exam helps to ensure donating is safe for you and to protect the recipient of the medical products made from your plasma. On subsequent visits, a staff member will check your vital signs and ask some questions about your health history. In addition, your hematocrit (the percentage of blood volume occupied by red blood cells) and plasma protein levels will be measured. For these visits you can expect to spend approximately an hour and a half in the center. You can help speed the time required for your donations by drinking plenty of water and limiting fatty foods in the 24 hours prior to donation.

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11. What should I do to prepare myself for a plasma donation?

It is important that you have proper diet and stay hydrated to have a healthy plasma donation. Plasma donors should follow a diet that meets the recommended daily requirements for protein, typically between 50 to 80 grams daily for an adult. Donors should remember to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water or juice the day prior and the day of donation; making sure to avoid alcohol, caffeine and fatty foods.

Getting enough rest the night before a donation and not smoking at least 30 minutes before or after a donation are also recommended. For more information, view our Plasma Donation Education brochure.

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12. How often can I donate plasma?

You can donate up to twice in 7 days but must skip at least one day in between your donations. For example, you can donate on Monday and Wednesday or Monday and Thursday but not Monday and Tuesday.

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13. Will my blood be tested?

Your blood will be tested for your blood type and infectious disease markers (including Hepatitis and Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV). In addition, other tests may be performed based on your medical history or special testing required to qualify you for the plasma program. Donors are also screened for syphilis, hematocrit and protein levels.

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