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A perfusionist is a highly specialized and highly skilled health care professional whose primary responsibility is to operate a heart-lung machine during open-heart surgery. A perfusionist has specialized training on the machinery and with the technology used to replace and support the patient’s circulatory and respiratory functions.

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During surgery, at the order and direction of the cardiac surgeon, the licensed perfusionist:

  • redirects the circulation of a patient’s blood outside of his or her body and through artificial organs (heart, lung, and kidney) to temporarily relieve the patient of his or her dependence on his or her own organs.
  • administer medications to stop the patient’s heartbeat and protect the heart while it is stopped.
  • reanimates the heart and is skilled at transferring the vital life-sustaining circulatory responsibilities back to the patient when the surgery is complete.
  • is an expert in ventricular assist devices, artificial hearts, and membrane lungs.
  • is skilled at interpreting patient data and managing patient circulatory and respiratory functions.
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You may verify a license by checking the Office of the Professions website.