Understanding Blood Components and Fractions | MedStar Health

Understanding Blood Components and Fractions

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This video introduces patients to the individual components of whole blood, including fractions from red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma that may be acceptable in the treatment of bloodless medicine patients.

This infographic illustrates the difference between major blood components and minor blood fractions. It also defines each minor fraction, and lists products that contain them. This information can help ensure that patients and their care teams understand each other as they make decisions about what patients will and will not accept as part of their medical treatment.


The blood in your body is called whole blood, and it has four major components: platelets, red blood cells, white blood cells and plasma. Substances taken out of these four components are called minor fractions.

To understand the difference between major components and minor fractions, it might help to use the example of a lemon.

Like whole blood, a lemon can be broken down into four parts: the peel, flesh, seeds and juice. These are the lemon’s “major components.”

Going a step further, you can take water, vitamin C, or fructose, which is a type of sugar, from the juice of the lemon.

These smaller substances are like minor fractions.

In the course of your medical treatment, your doctor may recommend using a product that contains one or more minor blood fractions.

If you’re considering using a product with fractions, make sure to talk with your doctor about the potential risks and possible side effects associated with it, as well as what your other options may be.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you can also speak with a member of your local Hospital Liaison Committee about the decisions you’re facing.

Whatever you decide, a key part of any Bloodless Medicine and Surgery program is making  your choices known to your care team as early as possible in your treatment.

It’s also important to remember that different clinicians may use the terms “components” and “fractions” differently. To avoid any confusion, be very clear about what you will and will not accept.

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