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A perfusionist in front of a heart–lung machine (upper right) early in a coronary artery bypass surgery.

A perfusionist, also known as a Clinical Perfusionist, Cardiovascular Perfusionist, Clinical Perfusion Scientist, or Medical Perfusionist, is a healthcare professional who uses the cardiopulmonary bypass machine (heart–lung machine) during cardiac surgery and other surgeries that require cardiopulmonary bypass to manage the patient's physiological status.

Perfusionists form part of the wider cardiothoracic surgical team which includes cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists and physician assistants. The perfusionist shares responsibility with the cardiac surgeon and anesthesiologist for the management of the physiological and metabolic needs of the cardiac surgical patient, so that the surgeon may operate on a still,or unbeating heart during certain procedures. The cardiac surgeon is in overall command of the operation. This is accomplished through the utilization of the heart–lung machine, as well as its associated components of an oxygenator, filters, reservoirs and tubing. The perfusionist is responsible for the management of circulatory and respiratory functions of the patient which has a great[further explanation needed] effect on the patient systemic condition and allows the cardiac surgeon to focus on the actual surgical procedure and less on the immediate needs of the patient. Other responsibilities include autologous blood collection and processing, implementation and management of the intra-aortic balloon pump, and management of extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, as well as monitoring of anticoagulation, electrolyte, acid-base balance and blood-gas composition. In many tertiary hospitals, perfusionists are also key personnel in placing and managing patients on ventricular assist devices as a bridge to recovery or heart transplantation and supporting patients receiving lung or liver transplants. In some hospitals, perfusionists can be involved in procurement of cardiothoracic donor organs for transplantation.

Training and certification[edit]

United States[edit]

In the United States, there are only Certified Clinical Perfusionists who perform all perfusion, for cardiac Surgery. A bachelor's degree with concentrations in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology is the prerequisite to be admitted to a perfusion program.[citation needed] As of 2005, there are 18 perfusion training programs in the United States, most offering a master's degree in perfusion sciences or circulatory sciences. Training typically consists of two years of academic and clinical education. Although the structure and training philosophies of perfusion programs differ, typically a perfusion student will begin his or her training in a didactic fashion in which the student will closely follow instructions from a certified clinical perfusionist in the confines of a cardiac surgery procedure. Academic coursework may be concurrent or precede this clinical instruction and is equally vital for their training. Early in their clinical training, the perfusion student may have little involvement outside of an observational role. However, as time progresses, more tasks may be incrementally delegated to them with the ultimate goal of producing a capable and competent perfusionist. Once a student graduates from a perfusion program, he or she must begin the certification process. In the interim, the perfusion graduate is typically referred to as board-eligible, which is sufficient for employment in cardiac surgery with the understanding that achieving certified status is required for long-term employment. Most employers have stipulations on the duration of board-eligible status.

A two-part exam is required to become certified and use the designation C.C.P. In the United States, this exam is administered and evaluated by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Similar governing bodies exist in other countries with comparable examination processes. The first portion of the two-part process is the Perfusion Basic Science Exam, and the latter portion is the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Exam. In order to qualify for this examination process, a perfusion student must have either graduated from or be enrolled in an accredited perfusion program, as well as have participated in a minimum of 75 clinical procedures during the course of their training.[1] A perfusion student may qualify for the Perfusion Basic Science Exam before they actually matriculate from their respective training program. Once employment is provided, and the perfusionist has participated independently in a minimum of 50 clinical procedures, he or she can qualify for the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Exam.[1] Once the Clinical Applications in Perfusion Exam has been successfully passed, a perfusionist can use the designation C.C.P. In addition, there are recertification requirements for perfusionists in which proof of a minimum number of clinical procedures and attendance to scientific or educational meetings must be provided to a certifying body (i.e. American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion). These recertification requirements and subsequent verification process occur every three years and are mandatory to maintain certified status to use the designation certified clinical perfusionist.

Perfusionist operating a modern heart–lung machine

As of February 2010, there were 3,766 certified perfusionists in the United States and 6583 in Canada.[2]


In Canada, there are only Certified Clinical Perfusionists who perform all perfusion, for cardiac Surgery. There are three training programs: Burnaby in Western Canada, and[Toronto]] and Montreal in Eastern Canada. British Columbia Institute of Technology in Burnaby offers an advanced specialty certificate in cardiovascular perfusion to graduates of its two-year program. Applicants must be certified respiratory therapists, critical care nurses, or cardiac professionals with two years or more of current experience in cardiac critical care. Applicants to the Michener Institute program in Toronto must have a bachelor's degree. The training program is 16 months to two years. The perfusion program of the Université de Montréal is a three-year bachelor's degree of 90 credits in biomedical science of which 27 credits are specific to clinical perfusion and in addition a diplôme d’études supérieurs spécialisées (DESS) of 30 credits in clinical perfusion of one-year at the master level.

United Kingdom and Ireland[edit]

In the United Kingdom and Ireland there are only Clinical Perfusion Scientists who perform all perfusion, for cardiac Surgery. A bachelor's degree in a science subject (usually life or clinical sciences) is a pre-requisite to enrolment on the two-year perfusion training course. Employment as a trainee perfusionist is also required. Trainees must complete a two-year academic and practical course. They complete academic assessments (essays and exams), while in the workplace moving from a purely observational role to one in which they are capable of managing the patient while they are on cardiopulmonary system with minimal supervision. Once a trainee has been the primary perfusionist in 150 clinical procedures, they must undertake a practical exam. For this exam, the candidate is observed by two external examiners whilst building and priming a cardiopulmonary circuit, then using it during a surgical operation. After the practical exam, trainees must complete a 40-minute viva voce exam, which tests their academic knowledge. After this is successfully completed, they are awarded a postgraduate diploma and the status of qualified clinical perfusion scientist. They must maintain this by performing a minimum of 40 clinical procedures per year.


In Australia, there are both Clinical and medical perfusionists.There are significantly more Clinical Perfusionists in Australia, who may be trained overseas, as well as Australia.. Clinical Perfusionists have the most experience in performing the majority of actual perfusion in cardiac surgery in Australia. Although Masters and PhD graduates have trained and become Clinical Perfusionist, the minimum qualification, is a science degree(usually Clinical/Health Sciences) as an entry requirement, before training. Clinical Perfusion training was at the Masters of Science level via an eLearning course at a university. Further didactic training is in a practical/clinical format. This is performed at a hospital, whilst doing a three-year multi-examined, multi-modular course via correspondence, with the Australian and New Zealand College of Perfusionists (ANZCP). A further final examination for Clinical Perfusionists, is administered by the ANZCP over two days. This involves a three hour written, two hour multiple choice and four half hour viva voce questions.

Significantly, up to this time, medical perfusionists are unqualified in perfusion. A medical perfusionist is a medical doctor (usually an anaesthetist) Who may become university trained, in a new course, through part time eLearning and simulation to perform perfusion.

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand there are only Clinical Perfusionists who perform perfusion in heart surgery. A Clinical Perfusionist must have at least a science degree(usually Clinical/Health Sciences) as an entry requirement, before training. Further didactic training is in a practical/clinical format, at a hospital, whilst doing a three-year course via correspondence with the Australian and New Zealand College of Perfusionists. Final examination for a Clinical Perfusionists, is administered by the ANZCP over two days. This involves a three hour written, two hour multiple choice and four half hour viva voce questions.

Other countries[edit]

The majority of perfusion in cardiac surgery, in the developed world, is performed by Clinical Perfusionists. In China, Egypt, and some South American countries a clinical perfusionist is a medical doctor who has completed subspecialty training.[citation needed] In Argentina, a perfusionist is a medical doctor, usually a cardiologist, who has undertaken additional sub-specialty training. They are often referred to as "hemodinamistas" (i. e. hemodynamics specialists).

In India[edit]

In India there are only Clinical Perfusionists who perform perfusion in heart surgery.There are different education programs for the education of Clinical Perfusionists. A three Year Bachelors degree program. Additionally, there is a two years post graduate diploma that is available to practice as a Clinical Perfusionist. A three and half year bachelor's degree program is also available, which includes six months internship. A two years post graduate diploma in some institutions (i. e. AIIMS Delhi, SMSMC Jaipur) Recently the Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion of India introduced certification.

Clinical procedures[edit]

Perfusionists can be involved in a number of cardiac surgical procedures, select vascular procedures and a few other surgical procedures in an ancillary role. In the realm of cardiac surgery, perfusionists perform cardiopulmonary bypass in adult and pediatric surgical procedures, which constitute the majority of procedures that perfusionists perform.

Perfusionists may participate in curative or staged palliative procedures to treat the following pediatric pathologies:

Adult surgical procedures may include:

Select ancillary procedures in which perfusion techniques and/or perfusionists may be involved include isolated limb perfusion, intraperitoneal hyperthermic chemoperfusion and tracheal resection/repair.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Certification". American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Retrieved 2010-02-15.
  2. ^ "Clinical Perfusionists Currently Certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion through December 31, 2010". American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion. Archived from the original on February 13, 2010. Retrieved 2010-02-15.

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