Does donated blood stay on the shelf indefinitely until it is used?

Name of Office: National Voluntary Blood Services Program (NVBSP)

No. Each unit of whole blood normally is separated into several components. Red blood cells may be stored under refrigeration for a maximum of 42 days depending on the anti-coagulant-preservative or additive used in the blood bag, or they may be frozen for up to 10 years.Red cells carry oxygen and are used to treat anemia. Platelets are important in the control of bleeding and are generally used in patients with leukemia and other forms of cancer. Platelets are stored at room temeperature and may be kept  for a maximum of five days. Fresh frozen plasma, used to control bleeding due to low levels of some clotting factors, is made from fresh plasma and may be stored frozen up to one year. Granulocytes are sometimes are used to fight infections, although their efficacy is not well established. They must be transfused within 24 hours of donation.

Other products manufactured from blood include albumin, immune globulin, specific immune globulins, and clotting factor concentrates.Commercial manufacturers commonly produce these blood products.