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What are platelets?

Platelets are irregularly-shaped, colorless bodies that are present in the blood. Platelets aid in the formation of clots to stop bleeding. The average lifespan of a platelet is about five days.

Who needs platelets?

Cancer, cardiac, and transplant patients need platelet transfusions to live. Children undergoing treatment for cancer and those receiving bone marrow transplants use most of the platelets that are collected at Boston Children's Hospital. The chemotherapy that eliminates cancer cells also eliminates all the healthy cells in the bone marrow. After a bone marrow transplant, it takes about 30 days for the new donor marrow to start working. During that time, the patient must be supported with transfusions of red cells to carry oxygen AND with transfusions of platelets to prevent serious and life-threatening bleeding episodes. Some children will require more than one bag of platelets EVERY day until their healthy bone marrow begins to grow.

How are platelets collected?

Through a single sterile needle, some of your blood is removed and passed through a platelet pheresis machine. The platelet pheresis machine separates the platelet/plasma from your blood then returns your blood back to you through the same needle. Donating platelets takes 60-120 minutes (depending on your size and platelet count), and you may be able to donate up to 24 times a year. During your donation you can read, listen to music, watch TV or a DVD, or just sit back and relax.

How do I prepare?

Prior to donating: DO NOT TAKE ASPIRIN OR IBUPROFEN 48 HOURS before your donation.

On the day of donation:

  • Make sure you are well hydrated.
  • Make sure you eat a meal prior to donating.
  • Bring a photo ID with you.

To make an appointment to donate, please visit