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Many people have donated blood. However, it is likely that only a small percentage of these individuals know what happens to their blood once it leaves their systems. This blog will attempt to answer that question.

Donated blood is not simply transfused into someone in need immediately following its extraction from a donor’s body. The life liquid must undergo several critical steps designed to ensure its safety and value. These steps include:



Shortly after donation, blood is first processed into its various components. Typically, blood is placed into a machine called a centrifuge which separates the substance into the several parts that comprise it such as platelets, plasma, red and white blood cells. Once the components are separated, they are stored inside an individual container. Separation often occurs in a laboratory overseen by the institution, organization or health facility receiving the donations.



When the blood has been separated, its components are properly identified. There are four different blood types A, B, AB and O. In addition, donated blood will also be labeled positive or negative based upon its specific Rh factor. Identification is crucial because administering someone the wrong blood type could be a costly, potentially fatal mistake.



Once donated blood is properly separated and identified, it is then tested to determine if the sample contains any infectious pathogens that could possibly precipitate disease. Common infectious particles blood banks search for include: viruses such as HIV, several strains of Hepatitis, various sexually transmitted microbes and infectious illnesses like West Nile or Zika. Donated blood will also be scrutinized for bacteria.



Should donated blood return from testing free of any pathogens, such samples are then stored. The length of time a particular blood component can be stored varies. Typically, platelets are only kept for several days. Red blood cells can remain refrigerated for a period lasting up to six weeks. Plasma can remain frozen and solid for donation for a duration of up to one year.



Blood that is appropriately stored inside a blood bank is typically available for distribution on a moment’s notice. In many instances, hospitals maintain a safe reserve of donated blood. However, stocked blood banks are important in the event of an emergency such as a mass casualty event.