What is plasma?
Plasma is the liquid component of blood. Red and white blood cells and platelets float in your plasma, and together make up whole blood. Your body contains between 5 to 6 quarts (5 liters) of blood.
What does plasma do?
Plasma has several roles to help your body function. Plasma is responsible for:
- Redistributing water where your body needs it.
- Delivering hormones, nutrients and proteins to parts of your body and helping to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide.
- Supporting blood vessels from collapsing or clogging.
- Maintaining blood pressure and circulation.
- Regulating body temperature by absorbing and releasing heat.
- Removing waste from cells and transporting it to your liver, lungs and kidneys for excretion.
- Helping to clot blood.
- Defense against bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.
What is plasma used for?
Plasma is essential to keep your body functioning. If you lose a lot of blood due to surgery, an accident or if you have a bleeding disorder, clotting or immune deficiency, plasma donations replenish the blood and plasma lost in your body.
How do I donate plasma?
There are two ways that you can donate plasma:
- Donating whole blood: A healthcare provider places a needle in a vein in your arm and withdraws blood. Later, a laboratory will separate plasma as needed.
- Donating plasma only (plasmapheresis): Similar to having whole blood removed, a healthcare provider will place a needle in a vein in your arm to withdraw blood. That blood enters a centrifuge machine that spins it and separates the plasma from the blood cells and platelets. The machine removes the separated plasma and returns your remaining blood components into your body in a saltwater (saline) solution.
After removing plasma from your body, the lab freezes your donated plasma within 24 hours of removing it to preserve clotting factors and immunoglobulins. Frozen plasma has a shelf life of one year.
Plasma from donors with an AB blood type is preferred because it does not have antibodies in it and can be given to any blood type recipient, but anyone can donate.
Where is plasma developed?
In the embryo, cells found in your umbilical cord produce plasma cells. After development, plasma proteins form in the soft tissue of your bones (bone marrow), liver cells, blood cells at the end of their lifespan and in your spleen.
What does plasma look like?
Plasma is a liquid. It's a light yellow color and resembles the color of straw. Although plasma makes up more than half of your blood’s total volume, the color of red blood cells dominates the color of your whole blood.
What percentage of blood is plasma?
Plasma makes up 55% of your blood’s total volume. Red blood cells follow at 44% of your blood’s volume, and a combination of white blood cells and platelets fill the remaining 1%.
How do you separate plasma from the other components of blood?
Your extracted blood spins in a centrifuge machine (centrifugation), which separates the whole blood sample into several layers. The yellow, top layer is plasma and the bottom layer contains your blood cells (red and white) and platelets.
What is plasma made of?
Blood plasma is a combination of:
- Proteins (albumin, fibrinogen, globulin).
- Liquefied salts and minerals that carry an electric charge (electrolytes).
- Immunoglobulins (components that help fight infection).
What proteins are in plasma?
Plasma contains several proteins including:
- Albumin: Keeps fluid contained in blood vessels so it doesn’t leak into tissues and carries hormones, vitamins and enzymes throughout your body.
- Antibodies (immunoglobulins): Defends your body from infections including bacteria, fungi, viruses and cancer cells.
- Clotting factors (fibrinogen and von Willebrand factor): Controls bleeding.
Conditions and Disorders
Is plasma tested for any transmittable conditions?
To ensure the safety of your blood sample, your healthcare provider will test your blood for transmittable diseases after removal. In the same process, your healthcare provider also tests your plasma for the same diseases including:
What are diseases or conditions that affect plasma?
There are several rare conditions that affect blood plasma including:
- Amyloid light-chain amyloidosis: A protein disorder where plasma cell antibody proteins change shape and bind together to deposit into organs, resulting in organs not functioning properly.
- Blood Disorders: Hemophilia and von Willebrand disease are conditions where blood does not clot properly and small injuries can cause severe bleeding.
- Immunodeficiency: A condition where your body can’t protect itself from infection due to a shortage of antibodies (immunoglobulins).
- Myeloma: A blood cancer that causes your body to produce abnormal, cancerous plasma cells in bone marrow and limits your body’s ability to produce new, healthy blood cells.
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura: A blood disorder where blood clots in small blood vessels.
What are the symptoms of plasma disorders?
Symptoms of plasma conditions include:
- Bone pain.
- Bruising and/or bleeding easily.
- Heart palpitations (arrhythmia).
- Pain in your hands and wrist (carpal tunnel syndrome).
- Weakened immune system.
What tests check the health of my body’s plasma?
There are several tests to check the health of your plasma:
- Blood volume test: Measures the amount of blood in your body.
- Bone marrow biopsy: Your healthcare provider removes a sample of your bone marrow to test for abnormal plasma cells.
- Complete blood count test: Provides information about your blood and overall health.
- Plasma protein test: Identifies the amount of all plasma proteins in your blood.
What are common treatments for plasma disorders?
Treatments for plasma disorders vary based on the severity of the illness. Treatment includes:
How do I keep my plasma healthy?
You can keep your plasma healthy by:
- Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated.
- Eating a healthy diet.
- Exercising regularly.
- Preventing infection by practicing good hygiene.
- Taking vitamins to improve your immune system.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the plasma membrane?
A part of all cells in your body, the plasma membrane, also known as a cell membrane, is the wall that separates the interior of the cell from the exterior and outside environment. Your plasma membrane protects your cells and functions to bring nutrients into the cells and remove waste from the cells. Your plasma membrane also interacts with other cells via proteins that attach to the membrane.
What is platelet-rich plasma?
Platelet-rich plasma is the combination of platelets and plasma to assist in healing and repairing injuries. Platelets are responsible for helping blood clot during an injury.
After withdrawing blood from your vein, a centrifuge machine separates your blood into layers by spinning it quickly, leaving plasma and platelets after removing red and white blood cells. Your healthcare provider injects platelet-rich plasma into your body to heal injuries including:
- Knee osteoarthritis.
- Liver disease.
- Sports injuries (pulled muscles, joint sprains, ligament tears).
- Tennis elbow.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Plasma is essential for your body to function and serves as the liquid that holds your red and white blood cells and platelets together. Plasma disorders are rare, but your donation of plasma helps others live healthy lives.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy