A perfusionist is a trained B-Tech Degree health professional, specifically educated as a member of an open-heart, surgical team.
During cardiopulmonary bypass, the perfusionist may administer blood products, anesthetic agents, or drugs through the extracorporeal circuit on prescription and/or appropriate protocol. The perfusionist is responsible for the monitoring of blood gases and the adequate anticoagulation of the patient, induction of hypothermia, hemodilution, and other duties, when prescribed. Perfusionists may be administratively responsible for purchasing supplies and equipment, as well as for personnel and departmental management. Final medical responsibility for extracorporeal perfusion rests with the surgeon in charge.
A perfusionist operates extracorporeal circulation and autotransfusion equipment during any medical situation where it is necessary to support or temporarily replace the patient’s circulatory or respiratory function. The perfusionist is knowledgeable concerning the variety of equipment available to perform extracorporeal circulation functions and is responsible, in consultation with the physician, for selecting the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used.
Perfusionists conduct extracorporeal circulation and ensure the safe management of physiologic functions by monitoring the necessary variables. Perfusion (extracorporeal circulation) procedures involve specialized instrumentation and/or advanced life-support techniques and may include a variety of related functions. The perfusionist provides consultation to the physician in the selection of the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used during extracorporeal circulation.
Perfusionists may be employed in hospitals, by surgeons, and as employees of a group practice. They typically work during the week and are frequently on call for emergency procedures on weekends and nights. They also may work in an on-call system, depending on the number of perfusionists employed by the institution.