Difference between Donating Blood and Donating Plasma

For potential donors, it is important to understand that donating blood is different from donating plasma. In this article, we will see what the basic differences between the two processes are.


Donating Blood vs Donating Plasma
The blood donation procedure on US Navy’s ship

The blood donation is the most common type among the various donating procedures, during which around one pint of “whole blood” is given out by a donor. The blood is further separated into the various components, such as red cells, plasma, platelets and/or Cryoprecipitated Antihaemophilic Factors (frozen blood). Whole blood donation is distinct from the donation of various blood components; the latter is commonly referred to as apheresis.

Most blood donors undergo the procedure voluntarily and for free.

If a person wants to become a blood or blood plasma donor, he has to undergo a safety check, which includes testing for diseases that can be transmitted by a blood transfusion, such as HIV virus or viral hepatitis.

A machine for collecting plasma
A machine for collecting plasma

During a plasma donation procedure, the blood is collected by a machine, which further separates the blood components – plasma, red cells and platelets, to return the red cells and/or platelets back to the donor later.

Plasma is the clear yellow colored portion of blood that is left over after red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are removed. Plasma makes up around 55 per cent of human blood.

Plasma contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies, and other proteins that can cope with blood clotting and help fight infections.

Donating Blood vs Plasma

What is the difference between donating blood and donating plasma?

The ”whole blood” donation procedure takes about an hour, but the actual donation takes around 8-10 minutes. Donating plasma, on the other hand, takes a little longer – around 1 hour and 15 minutes.

While in the case of obtaining whole blood the blood is collected via the vein of a donor, in the case of donating plasma, the plasma is done first by collection via the vein of a donor, and then via apheresis, which is the process that utilizes a machine that is specifically designed for this purpose.

While blood donation can be performed every 56 days, plasma donation can be performed more frequently – every 28 days.

Comparison chart

Donating blood Donating plasma
The most common type of donation The less common type of donation
Can be done via collecting the blood from the vein Can only be done with a special machine
Is done for all kinds of purposes Is done for further complex process to create life-saving therapies
Takes 8-10 minutes Takes around 1 hour and 15 minutes
One can donate ‘whole blood’ every 56 days One can donate plasma every 28 days
In the U.S., can be performed in any certified hospital with a simple donating equipment In the U.S., can be performed only in specialized Red Cross centers


In this video you can see the process of donating plasma in the United States in detail: