Occupational Description

A perfusionist operates extracorporeal circulation and autotransfusion equipment during any medical situation where it is necessary to support or temporarily replace the patient’s circulatory or respiratory function. The perfusionist is knowledgeable concerning the variety of equipment available to perform extracorporeal circulation functions and is responsible, in consultation with the physician, for selecting the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used.

Job Description

Perfusionists conduct extracorporeal circulation and ensure the safe management of physiologic functions by monitoring the necessary variables. Perfusion (extracorporeal circulation) procedures involve specialized instrumentation and/or advanced life-support techniques and may include a variety of related functions. The perfusionist provides consultation to the physician in the selection of the appropriate equipment and techniques to be used during extracorporeal circulation.

During cardiopulmonary bypass, the perfusionist may administer blood products, anesthetic agents, or drugs through the extracorporeal circuit on prescription and/or appropriate protocol. The perfusionist is responsible for the monitoring of blood gases and the adequate anticoagulation of the patient, induction of hypothermia, hemodilution, and other duties, when prescribed. Perfusionists may be administratively responsible for purchasing supplies and equipment, as well as for personnel and departmental management. Final medical responsibility for extracorporeal perfusion rests with the surgeon in charge.

Employment Characteristics

Perfusionists may be employed in hospitals, by surgeons, and as employees of a group practice. They typically work during the week and are frequently on call for emergency procedures on weekends and nights. They also may work in an on-call system, depending on the number of perfusionists employed by the institution.

Educational Programs

Length. Programs are generally 1 to 4 years in length, depending on the program design, objectives, prerequisites, and student qualifications. Certificate programs require that applicants have a bachelor’s degree.

Prerequisites. Prerequisites vary depending on the length and design of the program. Most programs require college-level science and mathematics. A background in medical technology, respiratory therapy, or nursing is suggested for some programs.

Curriculum. Curricula of accredited programs include courses covering heart-lung bypass for adult, pediatric, and infant patients undergoing heart surgery; long-term supportive extracorporeal circulation; monitoring of the patient undergoing extracorporeal circulation; autotransfusion; and special applications of the technology. Curricula include clinical experience that incorporates and requires performance of an adequate number and variety of circulation procedures.


American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion
2903 Arlington Loop
Hattiesburg, MS 39401
(601) 268-2221



American Society of Extracorporeal Technology (AmSECT) 
330 N Wabash Ave, Suite 2000
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 321-5156
Fax: (312) 673-6656

American Academy of Cardiovascular Perfusion
515A East Main Street
Annville, PA  17003