Southeastern Health

What is a Perfusionist?

By Kim McGill, Perfusionist, SHHV

The week of May 1-5 is Perfusionist Appreciation Week. Perfusionists are specialized allied health professionals who are nationally certified by the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion and licensed, in some states, by the medical board. The primary role of a perfusionist is to select, setup, and operate the heart/lung bypass machine during open heart surgery. A perfusionist’s scope of practice varies from institution to institution.

Southeastern Health Heart and Vascular (SHHV), employs two perfusionists, myself and Tim Locklear. In addition to operating the heart/lung bypass machine, we play a vital role in blood conservation with the use of an autotransfusion device, also known as the “cell saver.” This device collects shed blood during an operation. The blood is separated into the various formed elements. The red blood cells are washed in saline and returned to the patient with the intent of reducing donor blood transfusions. Additionally, we run the autologous platelet gel machine, and various cardiac assist devices including the intra-aortic balloon pump and extracorporeal membrane oxygenator.

I attended the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) and later transferred to the Duquesne University Perfusion Technology where I  graduated in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in perfusion technology. I have worked for SHHV for 11 years and serve as secretary for the NC Society of Perfusionists.

Locklear, a Red Springs native, earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UNC Pembroke in 1994 and the Texas Heart Institute School of Perfusion in 2006 with a certificate in perfusion technology. A Hoke County resident, he was worked for SHHV for ten years.

Because of our required knowledge of physiology, we are also experts with point of care testing. Two devices here at SHHV that we are responsible for are the Radiometer ABL90 Blood Gas Analyzer and the Medtronic Heparin Management System. Included in our scope of practice here is data abstraction and submission to various registries. We abstract and submit to the NCDR action registry (for inpatient AMI) as well as the STS national registry (for open heart surgery).

According to Dr. Andrea Carpenter, University of Texas, Health Science Center at San Antonio, Division of Thoracic Surgery, “The advent of cardiopulmonary bypass is clearly one of the most critical developments in the advancement of cardiac surgery. As the technology evolved and spread, the perfusionist became a critical member of the heart team. These dedicated professionals are not only valued members of daily life in cardiac surgery, but they also have been, and continue to be, a driving force in the evolution of our profession. Improvement in CPB circuits and elements has been driven by perfusionists who draw on their experience and perform high quality research. Operations that were once impossible are today quite routine. Cardiopulmonary support has saved literally millions from previously lethal diseases and injuries. We owe much of this progress to the creativity of our perfusionists, and we owe them all of our gratitude.”

SHHV is managed by Duke Health and located on the campus of Southeastern Health’s Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton, NC. To learn more, logon to

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 02 May 2017 08:04 )  
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