Platelet transfusion may be required if you have a low platelet count (thrombocytopaenia). Platelets assist with forming blood clots.

What are platelets?

Platelets are small, disc-shaped cell fragments. A bag of platelets is a cloudy yellow colour.

What is the role of platelets?

Platelets prevent or stop bleeding. If a blood vessel is damaged by trauma, surgery or illness, platelets form a plug, which helps stop bleeding. Platelets are held in place by special proteins in blood until the damage is healed. Platelets also contain growth factors that help to repair damaged body tissue.

Why might I need a platelet transfusion?

You may need a platelet transfusion if you have a low platelet count or platelets that do not work properly causing bleeding or putting you at a high risk of bleeding. This may be due to: 

  • chemotherapy
  • bone marrow transplantation
  • major surgery
  • liver disease
  • severe trauma
  • some medications

Are there options other than a platelet transfusion?

There are no other options if you need a platelet transfusion. Starting or stopping some medication may help lower some people’s risk of bleeding.

Learn more about avoiding a transfusion and having a transfusion.

HLA compatible platelets

Our human leucocyte antigen (HLA) type or tissue type is inherited from both our parents. There are thousands of human tissue types that exist on the surface of most of our cells including platelets. They are not found on red cells.

A very small group of patients need their platelets to be specially matched because they have HLA antibodies in their blood that can destroy transfused donor platelets. These HLA antibodies can develop during pregnancy, after a platelet transfusion or after organ transplantation.

However, most patients do not require HLA compatible platelets.