Date Published: 19 October 2006

Irish Blood Transfusion Service & Irish Cancer Society call for platelet donors

Health News from the Republic of Ireland (Eire).

For the first time ever the Irish Blood Transfusion Service has joined forces with the Irish Cancer Society, the national cancer care charity, to call for more people to become platelet donors. The demand for platelets in Ireland has increased by 50% over the past 5 years largely because of the number of new cases of cancer and the numbers of people undergoing chemotherapy. It is estimated that 22,500 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Ireland in 2006. The IBTS needs at least 22,000 donations of platelets per year in order to meet this demand. On average the IBTS issues approximately 90 units of platelets per day (over 500 units per week) to Irish hospitals and 90% of these are used in the treatment of cancer patients.

Platelets are a component of blood and are essential to enable the blood to clot properly. Chemotherapy often damages the patients’ bone marrow cells where the platelets are made and make the patients prone to spontaneous bleeding. Cancer patients, especially leukaemia patients often therefore depend on platelet transfusions while they are undergoing chemotherapy. A leukaemia patient for instance, undergoing chemotherapy, may need between 4 and 10 platelet transfusions per week. A patient undergoing a bone marrow transplant may need up to 60 units of platelets. There are approximately 373 new cases of leukaemia diagnosed every year.

To meet the demand for platelet transfusions in Ireland the IBTS collects platelets in two ways; pooled and apheresis. Pooled platelets are processed from whole blood donations. It takes four whole blood donations to produce one dose of platelets for patients. Apheresis is a special type of donation which separates the platelets from the rest of the blood during donation. An apheresis donation collects the same amount of platelets as those pooled from 8-12 whole blood donations.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Dr William Murphy, National Medical Director, Irish Blood Transfusion Service said:

The IBTS is endeavouring to limit patients’ exposure to many donors; therefore collecting platelets through apheresis is preferable to provide the safest possible product for the patient. The shelf-life of pooled platelets is also only five days and the shelf-life of apheresis platelets can be extended from five to seven days. At present, only approximately 40% of platelets supplied to Irish hospitals are collected by apheresis and it is the aim of the IBTS in association with the Irish Cancer Society to recruit about 2,000 new platelet donors in order to supply 100% apheresis platelets within the next 3 years. We urge the general public to seriously consider signing up as platelet donors”.

Also speaking at the launch of the campaign Morgan Hackett, 44 years of age from Dublin who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2000 and subsequently diagnosed with Leukemia in 2005 said

My leukemia treatment experience put previous treatments for non-Hodgkin’s in the shade. They normally involved 5 hourly treatments every month during which my white and red blood cell counts and my platelets and neutraphil counts went to zero. I could not have committed to my chemotherapy without the blood products including platelets being available. I simply would not have survived. I just lay there feeling better when receiving the platelets and feeling worse as my own blood factory could not yet do the job so I received more platelets as required”.

Commenting on the joint campaign Mr Andy Kelly, CEO, IBTS and John McCormack, CEO, Irish Cancer Society said

The IBTS and Irish Cancer Society joining forces for this platelet donation awareness campaign will be a major boost for cancer treatment services in Ireland”.


Source: Irish Cancer Society (Ireland).

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