Perfusionists are highly trained vital members of the cardiothoracic surgical team. Their main responsibility is to support the physiological and metabolic needs of the cardiac surgical patient during open-heart surgery. This is accomplished through the utilization of the heart-lung machine and its associated components.
The heart-lung machine is a biomedically engineered device that circulates, oxygenates, and purifies the patientís blood while the cardiac surgeon operates on the heart. The perfusionists are solely responsible for the circulatory and respiratory functions of the heart-lung machine. Also perfusionists are responsible to autologous blood collection and processing, implementation and management of the intra-aortic balloon pump, as well as monitoring of anticoagulation, electrolyte, acid-base balance and blood-gas composition.