Since being designated a regional service and following the completion of the new building at Southlake in Newmarket, the Regional Cardiac Care Program has grown, including the introduction of Perfusion Services staffed by a team of six highly skilled allied health professionals from across the globe. The service was established as a result of the regional program, and it operates side by side with the entire cardiac health care team. More often than not, these professionals can be found supporting the surgeons during open-heart surgery.
Perfusion is the flow and supply of blood and nutrients to the tissue. Before each open-heart surgery, a perfusionist assembles the extra-corporeal equipment (heart/lung machine) using permanent hardware and disposal kits to create the circuit for blood to flow through and be oxygenated while being pumped away from the heart. Once the cardiac surgeon places the patient on bypass, the role of the perfusionist is to operate the machine that will function as the patient’s heart and lungs during the remainder of the surgery.
“Our machinery is state-of-the-art and computer-driven, which allows us to monitor results in real-time while the blood is flowing through the machine and back into the patient,” says Paul Murphy, RN, CCP, CPC, Manager, Perfusion Services. “This allows us to make necessary adjustments where and when required in order to ensure the patient’s body functions within the normal limits during surgery.”
Once the patient is on cardio-pulmonary or heart and lung bypass, the heart is stopped by infusing a potassium-rich solution mixed with blood and the ventilator is shut off. The perfusionist operating the heart and lung machine monitors the patient’s blood pressure and oxygenation readings. When the operation is complete, the perfusionist slowly takes the patient off bypass and the heart is allowed to beat and the lungs to work again and restore the body back to its normal state.
Perfusion Services are involved in several projects within the Hospital including blood conservation and a new platelet gel technique as an aid to heal wounds. “Within our scope of practice, we are involved in research, presentations, and teaching as well as our normal clinical workload,” stated Bharat Datt, Staff Perfusionist. “We have already published a paper in the Canadian Journal of Perfusion, which has been presented at two international meetings. We are also currently working on several different interesting research projects to improve clinical outcomes at our hospital and our quality of practice.”