Perfusion is what allows blood and oxygen to keep flowing to your child’s tissues and organs when the heart is stopped during open-heart surgery. The perfusionists at the St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center are a special group of highly trained practitioners. They are involved with your child’s care from start to finish.

What is Perfusion?

Many heart surgeries require us to temporarily stop the heart. In these situations, we use a heart-lung machine, or heart-lung bypass, to provide life support to children. The machine takes blood away from the heart and lungs, oxygenates it, warms it and returns it to the body. This process is called perfusion, and perfusion technologists operate the heart-lung machine. Their job is to keep the blood circulating as it should and make sure your child has the right levels of oxygen in the blood.

Offering Your Child the Best Perfusion Care During Surgery

Heart surgery makes parents understandably anxious. That is why we attend to every detail of your child’s care, including having the best perfusion technologists available. Our perfusion team stands out as one of the best in the country because:

  • We have dedicated perfusionists as part of our cardiac support services team, each with rigorous and specialized training. The American Society of ExtraCorporeal Technology has named several of our perfusionists as Fellows of Pediatric Perfusion (FPP). The FPP distinction is one of the highest a pediatric perfusionist can achieve. It means they demonstrate professional and clinical expertise in adult and pediatric congenital heart surgery.
  • Our perfusion program is highly innovative. We developed a new circuit that has increased safety during lung transplants.
  • Our perfusionists work with the whole cardiac team to ensure the best possible outcome for children. In most hospitals, perfusionists are only in the operating room, but at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, they are involved with your child’s care from start to finish.
  • We develop a detailed perfusion plan before every operation, so that each child’s perfusion is as customized to his or her needs as possible.
  • Other major child heart centers routinely contact our perfusionists for advice, expertise and new techniques.