Are you a match?

Platelets are small cells in the blood that help us to form clots when needed. Some patients have very low platelet counts, often as a result of intensive chemotherapy for certain cancers, and particularly for leukaemia. A normal healthy donor has a platelet count of anywhere between 150 and 400. Some patients, by contrast, have counts as low as 5. These patients are at a high risk of spontaneous bleeds, which can cause severe complications like strokes, or even death. Platelet transfusions can help prevent this from happening.

When a patient receives a platelet transfusion, doctors check whether it has worked by doing a platelet count before and again 24 hours afterwards. If the transfusion has no effect, doctors investigate further and may ask for HLA matched platelets. HLA stands for ‘Human Leucocyte Antigen’, the name given to many proteins on the surface of our cells. These proteins are used to match patients to donors, particularly for organ and bone marrow donations. Matched platelets last longer in the patient’s body and reduce their risk of bleeding.

In most cases patients respond well to platelet transfusions. However, when a patient needs HLA matched platelets, it is the responsibility of New Zealand Blood Service to find a matching donor. If you are a platelet donor, we might give you a call if we find you are a match for a patient in need, which might be outside our usual opening hours. We are so grateful to our matching donors, who often come in at short notice. Your contribution is such a valuable, life-changing gift.

 By Christopher Corkery, Transfusion Nurse Specialist, Hamilton


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