Blood is made up of four parts. They are red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of your blood. It is the largest part of your blood. It contains water, salt, enzymes, and proteins. It is clear to pale yellow in color. Some of the proteins that make up plasma are clotting factors and some are antibodies. Clotting factors help to seal blood vessels and stop bleeding after an injury. Antibodies are used to fight infections. Two of the main jobs of plasma are to move nutrients, hormones, and proteins throughout your body and help remove waste from cells.
The amount of plasma in your blood can be checked with a blood test called a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). Levels of albumin and globulin, types of plasma proteins, can be measured in a CMP.
When a person donates plasma, the plasma is separated from the other parts of the blood. The plasma is then frozen and may be called fresh frozen plasma or FFP. It can be kept frozen and used for up to a year later.
What causes low plasma?
Low plasma levels can be caused by medical issues like malnutrition (poor diet), inflammatory disorders, and celiac disease. In cancer patients, low plasma may be caused by disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). DIC can be caused by leukemia or by a bloodstream infection (sepsis). It causes the body to make clots where they are not needed, which leads to clotting factors being used up. Your body will run out of clotting factors if DIC is not treated, leading to bleeding. Plasma can be given to replace the clotting factors lost.
Who needs a plasma transfusion?
There are many reasons why a plasma transfusion may be needed. These can include:
- To manage DIC.
- Liver disease.
- After surgery. Such as open-heart surgery or transplant surgery.
- Manage medical emergencies like shock and burns.
- Bleeding in patients who take a blood thinner called warfarin.
How is a plasma transfusion given?
A laboratory that specializes in blood products will decide what type of plasma you should get. Plasma is matched to your blood type.
Plasma is given through an intravenous (IV) line. The infusion takes 30-60 minutes but can vary depending on how much plasma you need. Your vital signs (temperature, heart rate, oxygenation, and blood pressure) will be checked before and after the infusion.
What are the risks of having a plasma transfusion?
Although not common, there are risks to having a plasma transfusion. These include infection and reactions. If you start to have itching, chills, any new pain, nausea, trouble breathing, or your throat feels tight, let your provider know right away.
The plasma you receive is collected from donors. All donated plasma is tested for viruses and bacteria. The risk of getting a virus or other infection from a plasma transfusion is very low. This includes HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
Types of blood transfusions: Blood Transfusions for Cancer patients. American Cancer Society. (2016, June 20). Retrieved November 30, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/blood-transfusion-and-donation/what-are-transfusions.html