A perfusionist, also known as a clinical perfusionist, is a trained health professional that operates the heart-lung machine during cardiac surgery and other surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass.
The perfusionist is a highly trained member of the cardio-thoracic team which consists of heart surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses. The perfusionists main responsibility is to place the patient on cardiopulmonary bypass so that the surgeon may operate on a still, unbeating heart. Other responsibilities include autologous blood collection and processing, implementation and management of the intra-aortic balloon pump, adult and infant extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) as well as many tests to monitor the patient. In many centers, perfusionists are also key personnel in placing and managing patients on ventricular assist devices as bridge to recovery or heart transplantation and supporting patients receiving lung or liver transplants.
Perfusion technology majors learn how to run machinery that assists or replaces a patients own respiratory or circulatory system during an operation or other medical procedure.