SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Australian Red Cross Lifeblood collects around 1.5 million blood donations every year.
- Most of this is used to help people with medical conditions that require blood or blood products regularly.
- Healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 75 years that meet donation eligibility criteria may be able to donate to Lifeblood.
- Donations are also needed for important medical research.
- Donor requirements for medical research may be slightly different from those for Blood Service donors.
Australian Red Cross Lifeblood collects around 1.5 million blood donations each year. Most of this is used to help people with medical conditions that require blood or blood products regularly. For example, 34% of donated red blood cells are used to help treat people with and blood diseases.
Medical researchers also need donated blood in order to develop and test new treatments for many medical conditions – such as blood clots, , and cancer.
Each type is either Rh-positive or Rh-negative.
O negative blood can be given to anybody if necessary, but it is always preferable to match the exact blood group to prevent dangerous reactions.
Who can donate blood?
Healthy adults (18-75 years) who meet donation eligibility criteria can donate blood. The procedure is safe and relatively painless.
During a regular donation, you will give around 470ml of whole blood. This is about 8% of the average adult’s blood volume.
The body replaces this volume within 24 to 48 hours, and replenishes red blood cells in 10 to 12 weeks.
Blood donation requirements
To donate blood, Lifeblood donors must:
- Be healthy and not suffering from a , or other illness at the time of donation.
- Be aged between 18 and 75 years (other rules may apply if you are a current donor).
- Weigh at least 50kg.
- Have normal temperature and .
- due to the pandemic.
- Meet guidelines designed to protect both the donor and the people who will receive the blood.
Blood donation and mad cow disease (vCJD)
People who spent 6 months or more in the UK between 1980 and 1996 are currently unable to donate. This is due to the possibility that they may have vCJD (variant ), a human form of BSE or ‘mad cow disease’.
This condition cannot yet be tested for and may remain dormant for a very long time. Similar precautionary measures apply to donors in New Zealand, Canada and the USA.
How blood donation works
Donating blood only takes around 10 minutes, but you should allow at least an hour for the whole process (which includes a personal interview, recovery time and free refreshments).
How often can you donate blood?
You can donate whole blood every 12 weeks, but you can donate plasma every 2 weeks.
Mandatory tests of donated blood
Types of blood donation
The main types of blood donation include:
- Blood – a standard donation, consisting of plasma, red and white blood cells, platelets, antibodies and other components.
- Plasma (known as apheresis) – plasma is separated from the other components by a special machine, and the red blood cells are returned to the donor in cycles throughout the donation.
- Platelets (known as plateletpheresis) – done in a similar way to plasma donation, but the red cells and plasma are returned to the donor.
Less common donations include:
- Autologous – prior to a scheduled operation or transfusion, a person donates blood for their own use.
- Directed or designated donation – a donor can give blood that will be used for a specific person.
Autologous and directed donations are now rare, occurring only in special medical cases. These blood donations have the same risks as regular blood donations.
Products made from whole blood
Donated blood is used to make a variety of different products, including:
- Red cells – carry oxygen. Most recipients of donated blood are given red cells to boost the oxygen-carrying abilities of their own blood
- Platelets – are needed for blood clotting. People who need extra platelets include people with certain diseases – such as , or those recovering from a severe haemorrhage (bleeding).
- Plasma – makes up 55% of blood. It can be used in 18 life-giving ways – from treating people with and cancer, to protecting people with brain and nerve diseases.
Products made from blood plasma
Blood is made up of 55% plasma – the straw-coloured liquid that carries your red cells, white cells and platelets. Plasma also contains antibodies and other important proteins.
Plasma is processed to make a number of different products including:
- Human immunoglobulin (Intragam) – used to boost the .
- Normal immunoglobulin – used to prevent (including for overseas travellers or for family contacts of people with this illness)
- Hyper immunoglobulins – used in vaccinations for , , and .
- Anti-D – prevents haemolytic disease of newborn babies by inoculating a mother who is Rh-negative against the incompatible Rh-positive blood cells of her baby.
- Human albumin (Albumex 20) – used to treat deficiency.
- Biostate (Factor VIII Concentrate) – used to treat A and other bleeding disorders.
- Human coagulation factor IX (Monofix) – used to treat haemophilia B.
- Human prothrombin complex (Prothrombinex HT) – used to treat bleeding disorders.
- Human antithrombin III (Thrombotrol VF) – used to treat a condition characterised by premature blood clotting.
Blood donation for medical research
About 8 out of every 10 Australians will experience a blood-related disease at some point in their lives.
Blood clots can cause , and blood cancers (such as or ) make up about 15% of cancers in Australia. New treatments for these life-threatening conditions depend on medical research.
Research scientists need donated blood to investigate the causes of blood-related diseases and to test newly-developed treatments including:
- Anti-clotting enzymes – particular enzymes help to break down and remove blood clots from the bloodstream. Understanding this process may help to develop new treatments for life-threatening blood clots.
- Platelets – investigating how and why platelets stick to blood vessel walls can help determine why life-threatening conditions like heart attack and stroke occur.
- Blood stem cells – create blood components (such as red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets). Malfunctioning stem cells are thought to cause blood-related illnesses (such as leukaemia). Investigating stem cell functions can lead to better treatments.
- – cancer of the plasma cells in . Donated blood is used to test the effectiveness of new treatments.
Blood donation requirements for medical research
Donor requirements for medical research may be slightly different from those for Lifeblood donors. For example, people who usually don’t qualify as Lifeblood donors (such as people who have lived in the United Kingdom) can qualify as donors for medical research.
To qualify to become a blood donor for medical research:
- Be aged 18 to 60.
- Not taking anti-clotting or anti-inflammatory medications (such as aspirin, warfarin or ibuprofen).
- Contact the (ACBD) –Tel. to make an appointment. Appointments are available Monday to Friday between 8:30 and 10am.
What happens at my first medical research appointment?
At your first appointment you will receive an information form that outlines the purpose of the research, and a consent form to sign.
The blood collection procedure takes about 15 minutes, is safe, and is performed by a fully trained scientist, nurse or doctor. The amount of blood taken depends on the needs of the research project, but will range from 40 to 400ml. Your body will need only a couple of days to replace 400ml of blood.
You will be paid a small amount ($10) at each visit to help cover transportation or other costs.
Most people can donate regularly. If you indicate that you would be willing to give future blood donations, your name and contact details will be kept on a database for blood donation requests once every 3 months (4 times per year).
If you wish, you can receive information on the results of the research project.
Consent form for blood donation for medical research
If you agree to participate in a blood research project, you must sign a consent form. The exact content of the form will vary between projects, but it may be a statement that includes details such as:
- An understanding of the aims of the research project (this should be explained to you).
- You are willing to donate the required amount of blood.
- The blood donation procedure and any side effects (such as you may be uncomfortable, and have a small amount of bruising around the needle site).
- The blood will be used purely for research, not for transfusion or any other medical purpose.
- All information you provide is confidential.
- Participation is voluntary and you can change your mind at any stage.