Under the pump

A man in blue hospital scrubs seated in front of medical equipment
Chief Clinical Perfusionist Brian Wright leads a team that operates the heart-lung machine during surgery
June 18, 2018

In the operating theatre, every person has an important and specific role. Fiona Stanley Hospital Chief Clinical Perfusionist Brian Wright leads a team that has the vital task of operating the heart-lung machine during surgery.

We had a chat with Brian about his high pressure job.

“I take over the function of the heart and lungs of patients having coronary artery bypass grafting surgery, valve replacements or heart and lung transplantation,” Brian said.

“I take the blood that would go into their heart and through the lungs and divert it through a heart-lung machine, adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide. At the same time, I preserve the heart by putting a high potassium solution in the coronary arteries and stopping the heart for anywhere from ten minutes up to several hours.

“Essentially, I’m responsible for keeping the patient alive using a machine for the amount of time they are in surgery. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing! The best part of my job is that I’m contributing to the outcome of the patient and their quality of life. I feel good about that.

“Perfusion also provides a service in the Intensive Care Unit called Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO) which uses a smaller bypass system to give life support to patients in heart or lung failure.”

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