Mayo Clinic Minute: What Happens to Donated Blood?

In the winter months, it's common for blood donations to drop due to bad weather in many areas of the country and the flu. That's why January is National Blood Donor Month, a time when eligible donors are urged to consider giving. The average blood donation takes about one hour per session. If you've wondered what happens to your blood after it's been collected, Justin Kreuter, M.D., Director of Mayo Clinic's Blood Donor Program, has some answers.

You sit down for an hour, donate a pint of blood. But then what?

"So you see what's in your vein go into the bag. We're going to separate that into the various components of blood."

Dr. Kreuter says blood donations enable much-needed patient care.

"Most likely, your blood would be used for a medical patient who's suffering a disease or it could be used for a patient who's having surgery."

Donated blood is separated into red blood cells, platelets, and plasma, and each has different storage needs.

"Blood that's donated, we can keep the red blood cells for 42 days. For platelets, we can keep them for five days. For plasma, we can keep it for a full year."

And for these reasons, having a supportive blood donor community is critical for patient care.

"Every time that you donate, that's going to be relieving suffering or enabling some medical-surgical cure to happen, and I think that's the thing we have to remember."

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