Image of a Cardiovascular Perfusionist in the operating room monitoring patient vital signs on a screen.

Pre-Cardiovascular Perfusion Preparation

When doing open-heart surgery, the surgeon needs a still heart and lungs to work. The patient still needs oxygen circulated through the bloodstream to survive. Thus, cardiovascular perfusionists (also known as cardiac perfusionist, cardiopulmonary perfusionist, or simply, perfusionist) play the vital role in the operating room, responsible for operating extracorporeal circulation equipment, such as the heart-lung machine, to keep the patient alive. They take part in many other medical procedures in which it is necessary to artificially support or temporarily replace a patient's circulatory or respiratory function.

Cardiovascular perfusionists also monitor a patient’s vitals and then select appropriate equipment and techniques to manage normal blood flow, body temperature, and other respiratory functions. Perfusionists work closely in the operating room within a hospital and surgery center with cardiac surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, and other members of the health care team. They generally work a regular 40-hour week, but may be on call on some nights, weekends and holidays.

Job Outlook

Employment for cardiovascular perfusionists is expected to grow by 14 percent, according to, which notes the growth is much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth is attributed to a growing and aging population.

  • $128,237
    Median Annual Salary
  • 14%

    Projected Annual Growth Rate,


How To Apply

Cardiovascular Perfusion programs are highly competitive and there are only 17 programs in the country. Most require applicants to have a bachelor's of science degree to apply. In addition, many programs either recommend or require students to have shadowing hours with a Cardiovascular Perfusionist. 
Students must then Graduate from an Accredited Perfusion Technology Program or approved program of Extracorporeal Technology. In most Perfusion programs, students will earn a Master’s degree; this usually takes two to three years to complete. After completion of the programs, students must then pass a national exam to earn their certification through the American Board of Cardiovascular Perfusion.

Search for Perfusionist Programs


"I found I really enjoyed the operating room (OR) environment. This career seemed like a great fit for me, as it combined my research focus (cardiovascular physiology and autonomic regulation) and my love of the OR. I then connected with several perfusionists to gain a further understanding of their roles and responsibilities."Colleen Toorongian, '20