Automated Red Cell Donations (ALYX)

The Blood Bank of Delmarva uses technology which allows you to donate two units of critically needed red blood cells in just one visit, saving two lives each time!

How does an automated red cell donation help patients?

An aging population and new medical treatments are contributing to an increasing demand for surgeries and procedures requiring blood transfusions. At the same time, more restrictive donor eligibility criteria intended to protect the safety of the blood supply has decreased the eligible donor pool. In the face of this growing need, obtaining two units of red cells from a donor will help us to meet the needs of local hospitals and the patients they serve.

What's it like to make an automated red cell donation?

A red cell donation feels much the same as a whole blood donation but uses a smaller needle. A small amount of blood is drawn into a sterile bag and then spun in a centrifuge to separate your red cells from other blood components. The red cells are stored in a separate bag while your other components (plasma and platelets) are safely returned to you along with saline solution. This helps keep your body's blood volume balanced, so you actually feel better than if you donated whole blood. This cycle is repeated a few times until we have collected the required amount of red cells.

Who needs your red cells?

Red cells are critically needed by:

  • surgery/trauma patients
  • cancer/chemotherapy patients
  • accident/burn victims
  • at-risk infants

Can't you take red cells from my whole blood donation? 

Yes, but with automated red cell donation you can donate two units with each visit! Also whole blood donations need to be sent to the lab to separate the blood components, and then the red cells need to be filtered. With an automated donation, the red cells are separated and filtered immediately, making them readily available, after routine testing, for the patients who desperately need them.

Is it safe to donate red cells?

At all times during the donation process your blood remains inside a sterile tubing system and is never in contact with the equipment used for your red cell donation. All tubing, bags and the needle used to collect your red cells are new, sterile and used only once for you. After use, the entire disposable kit is discarded. Also, the needle is smaller and more comfortable and, because you are donating less volume than a whole blood donation, you will actually feel better.

Who can make an automated red cell donation?

To qualify as an automated red cell donor, males need to be at least 5'1 and weigh at least 130 lbs. Females must be at least 5'5" and weigh at least 150 lbs. This is because men and women have different total blood volumes and because of this difference, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established different donor requirements. You can make an automated red blood cell donation every 112 days or 16 weeks.