Perfusionists manage the cardiac bypass machine during surgery.


Due to the nature of the cardiac surgery, the surgeon needs to work on a still heart, and it is necessary to temporarily replace the patient’s circulatory and respiratory function. It is the responsibility of the perfusionist, a specialized healthcare professional, to assume the function of the heart and/or lungs during these medical procedures.

A perfusionist operates a heart-lung machine, which is an artificial blood pump, which propels oxygenated blood to the patient’s tissues while the surgeon operates on the heart. The perfusionist manages the physiological and metabolic demands of the patient while the cardiac surgeon operates on the heart. It is also the perfusionist’s responsibility to deliver the drug that stops the heart.

A perfusionist generally spends 90% of his or her time in the OR suite for cardiac cases, but now may also find their responsibilities extending to areas such as the cardiovascular intensive care unit (CIVICU) and catheterization laboratory.

The perfusionist measures various blood and other parameters to identify appropriate mechanical, pharmacological and thermal manipulation to maintain a physiological state. To preform these tasks, a perfusionist must have a thorough understanding of both the respiratory and circulatory system and be able to operate complex equipment.

The perfusionist must also be knowledgeable about the equipment available to perform extracorporeal circulation function and is responsible, in consultation with the surgeon, for selecting the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used. (

CSU Recommended Coursework

Perfusionists typically complete a four-year degree, with courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, as well as additional specialized training to satisfy the requirements of certification. A background in science is not required to become a perfusionist and schools have specific prerequisite courses they require of a student in order to be eligible to apply to their program.

Programs and Preparation

Admissions Tests

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