Sustaining life during surgery

Our pediatric perfusionists are skilled allied-health professionals trained and educated specifically as members of the congenital heart surgery team. They’re responsible for the selection, setup and operation of the heart–lung machine and any other circulation equipment that is necessary to support or temporarily replace your child’s respiratory or circulatory functions during a procedure.

In open-heart surgery, your child’s heart is stopped to make it possible for the surgeon to operate. The heart–lung machine makes this possible by diverting blood away from the heart and lungs into the machine, where it receives oxygen and is then pumped throughout the body.

Heating and cooling your child’s blood is another important part of the perfusionist’s job. At the beginning of surgery, the perfusionist uses special equipment to cool the blood. This lowers the body’s temperature and slows down metabolism so that the organs use less oxygen during surgery. Toward the end of surgery, the perfusionist warms the blood to a normal temperature.