There is more to blood than meets the eye. This valuable resource runs through our veins and provides us with essentials to keep our bodies working and moving forward. It is important for us to receive blood donations to help the local blood supply, but it is also important for you to know which parts of your blood help others.
When it comes to blood, it is often the parts of the whole that are more valuable to people than the whole product itself. Blood has many different functions in the body and each part of the blood plays a different role. Although whole blood donations are the most common, blood transfusion usually involves giving only part of the blood. If whole blood is given in a transfusion, the unit must be of the same blood type (A, B, or O) as the recipient’s.
The main function of red blood cells is the delivery of oxygen to tissues and removing carbon dioxide. Red blood cells transport dissolved gases, waste products of metabolism, hormones, enzymes, nutrients, plasma proteins and blood cells. Red blood cells work to maintain the body temperature and control the pH of the blood to prevent damage to cells. Red blood cells transport waste products to the kidneys or liver so they can be excreted from the body. Red blood cells make up approximately 45% of the volume of blood. Transfusions of red blood cells are required when there are signs of decreased oxygen-carrying capacity in the blood.
Plasma is a fluid in the blood made up of approximately 92% water that works as a medium to transport blood cells, antibodies, clotting proteins, hormones and nutrients through the body. Plasma helps the body maintain the optimum body temperature and serves as the medium through which the blood flows in the blood vessels. Plasma helps the body maintain the ideal balance of electrolytes in the blood and tissues, and works to control the pH of the blood and tissues at a range where they can thrive. Plasma is used to treat bleeding or clotting disorders and other blood deficiencies. Plasma accounts for more than half of the volume of the blood.
Platelets are produced by bone marrow, circulate in the blood stream, and help prevent bleeding in all patients. Platelets bind together when they recognize damaged blood vessels to form a clot and stop the bleeding. Platelet transfusions are generally given for patients with a platelet count below 150,000 platelets uL of blood. These cells make up a very small percentage of the blood; and after donation, they must be stored at room temperature with a shelf-life of only five days.