Blood is made up of four parts. They are red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are a part of your blood that are most often found in your plasma. They are made in your bone marrow. Platelets help your body make blood clots to stop bleeding. They only live for 7 to 10 days. If they are not used to make a clot, then they are naturally destroyed by your body.
What is a normal platelet count?
A normal platelet count is about 150,000 to 400,000 per microliter. Your platelet count can be checked by drawing blood for a complete blood count (CBC). A CBC measures the levels of all the parts that make up your blood.
What causes a low platelet count?
A low platelet count can be caused by cancer itself or the cancer treatments you are getting. For example, leukemia starts in the bone marrow and can interfere with normal blood cell production, which can lead to a low platelet count. Chemotherapy and radiation can affect not only cancer cells but also healthy cells. Because of this, both treatments can lead to low platelet counts.
If your platelet count is low, you may have:
- Bleeding gums.
- Bleeding from a cut or wound that doesn’t stop by itself or lasts a long time.
- More or worse bruising than usual.
- Small purple or red dots under your skin, also called petechiae.
- Heavier or longer than normal menstrual (period) bleeding.
Who needs a platelet transfusion?
You may be given platelets from a donor to prevent bleeding if your count is well below normal, typically below 10-15 thousand. If you are having surgery, a procedure, or are actively bleeding, platelets may be given even if the count is not that low.
How is a platelet transfusion given?
Platelets are given through an intravenous (IV) line. The infusion takes 15-30 minutes. 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 platelet transfusion?
Although not common, there are risks to having a platelet transfusion. These can include infection and reactions. If you start to not feel well during the transfusion, let your provider know right away. Symptoms of a reaction can include itching, chills, fever, and rash.
Platelets are collected from donors. All donated blood is tested for viruses and bacteria. The risk of catching a virus or other infection from a blood transfusion is very low. This includes HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
Low platelet count or thrombocytopenia. Cancer.Net. (2021, November 19). Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.cancer.net/coping-with-cancer/physical-emotional-and-social-effects-cancer/managing-physical-side-effects/low-platelet-count-or-thrombocytopenia
Types of blood transfusions: Blood Transfusions for Cancer patients. American Cancer Society. (2016, June 20). Retrieved November 29, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/blood-transfusion-and-donation/what-are-transfusions.html