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What is Perfusion?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 23 March 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Perfusion refers to the flow of blood through the vessels of the body, on its way to the capillary beds in various tissues which receive bloodflow. When someone experiences decreased perfusion, this can be quite dangerous, as the tissues in the body can be quickly damaged by restricted bloodflow. Most people who have looped a rubber band around a finger for a short time are familiar with what happens when perfusion is reduced.

When patients are brought in during an emergency, one of the things tested during triage is perfusion. Limited perfusion can be a sign of a serious problem which needs to be addressed. One common way to test perfusion is simply to apply pressure to the skin, and then to wait to see how long it takes for blood to flow back into the site. A slow return of blood indicates decreased perfusion, a cause for concern.

In the process of perfusion, blood moves its way out from the heart, through a network of arteries, and into the smallest blood vessels in the body, the capillaries. As the blood flows through the capillaries, it brings vital nutrients to the tissues of the body, and helps to sweep away waste. Then, the blood flows back to the heart, where it is infused with oxygen again and set out all over again. Any interruption in this circulatory system can have a ripple effect on vessels and capillaries downstream.

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The process of perfusion can be turned to the advantage of medical personnel. For example, many medications are delivered directly into the bloodstream, with perfusion carrying the medication throughout the body. Sometimes, bloodflow to a specific limb or area may be briefly restricted while medication is injected at the site, ensuring that the medication becomes concentrated in the area where it is needed most.

When perfusion becomes radically decreased, a patient runs the risk of dying or losing a limb. For example, if someone is in a car accident which causes him or her to be trapped in the car with a leg pinned, the circulation to that leg could be cut off, causing the tissues in the leg to die. Unless the patient is treated promptly, the limb might need to be amputated because of widespread tissue death. Poor perfusion can also cause organ failure, which can be a very serious problem, as the failure of one organ often puts stress on the others, leading to systemic organ failure and eventual death.

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Discuss this Article

neekm
Post 5

What is the difference between local and systemic perfusion? How is systemic perfusion measured and represented by objective findings?

anon78588
Post 3

FYI - blood leaves the heart through a network of arteries, passes through the capillaries, as noted in article, and returns to the heart via a network of veins.

anon54124
Post 2

I must say a big well done to wise geek for putting this page together.

i'm a student nurse and for the past week we have had lectures on perfusion but i just could not get the hang of it, but thanks to this page, I do.

the explanation on this page is very simple and easy to understand i would definitely recommend wise geek to my friends and classmates.

anon35793
Post 1

this was my first time using wise geek and i was impressed. i am a nurse and needed clarification on a medical term. it was fast and easy to understand

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