Heart Hospital, a member of Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC), safely performed 527 cardiac surgical procedures in 2020 amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2012, surgical teams at the hospital have performed more than 3,000 procedures.

Highly trained professionals, perfusionists, are key members of the surgical team at the Heart Hospital and play a vital role providing support and critical care during any procedure where a patient’s circulatory or respiratory system needs to be supported or replaced.

Cardiovascular perfusionists are healthcare professionals for maintaining blood circulation, homeostasis and oxygenation to tissues, and to ensure the adequate monitoring of vital signs during open heart operations and other types of treatment requiring artificial heart-lung support.

While consultants carry out a wide range of cardiac procedures including elective and emergency cardiac procedures or emergency resuscitation in the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, the perfusionist supports the patient during this critical time.

Abeer al-Jaja, chief clinical perfusionist and mechanical circulatory support lead at Heart Hospital Perfusion Service, said: “We have nine clinical perfusionists who play a significant role in controlling mechanical cardiac assist devices in patients with end-stage heart failure and in running extracorporeal circulation in patients requiring this support for other interventions, such as lung transplantation, organ perfusion or oncological treatments. They are the main allied healthcare professional to run the cell saver blood salvage machines that help reduce and avoid blood transfusion during surgery. They also ‘run’ the Intra-Aortic balloon pump counter pulsation devices that support the very sick heart whether pre, during or post cardiac surgery”.

“The perfusionists are vital members of the cardiac surgical team due to the increased sophistication of technical interventions requiring assisted circulation. During the early development of perfusion technology, specialised life support equipment was developed and operated by physicians and scientists interested in extracorporeal circulation. Gradually, the operation and maintenance of these devices has been assigned to the Clinical Perfusionist, who provides direct patient care, accountable to the surgeon and physicians,” al-Jaja explained.

Even though the perfusionists are not very well known, the cardiovascular perfusion team are cover all other HMC facilities including Hamad General Hospital, the Cuban Hospital, Hazm Mubeireek General Hospital, Al Wakra and Al Khor hospitals for ECMO services. They regularly evaluate the latest perfusion equipment and disposables to ensure their care is cutting edge. Their efforts, along with those of the surgeons, cardiologists, and the anaesthesiologists are focused on one goal which is providing the best quality care with the best possible outcome for every patient they treat.