What Is Perfusion? - Definition & Treatment

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  • 0:03 Perfusion
  • 1:07 Treatment
  • 3:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lacey Russell

Lacey has a Master's of Science in Nursing with a specialization in Acute Care Nurse Practitioner

In this lesson, we'll define perfusion. We'll also go over how perfusion occurs and what can interfere with it. Then, we'll discuss steps that can be taken if perfusion is interrupted.


Perfusion is the process of oxygenated blood being delivered to the tissues of the body. To understand when perfusion occurs, we need to define a few terms of the heart beat cycle first. A heart beat is made up of two cycles. Systole is the first cycle, also called the 'lub,' and is when the chambers contract and force blood into the arteries. Diastole is the second cycle, aka the 'dub,' and is when the chambers relax and fill with blood.

Perfusion of the body's tissues occurs during Systole. The chambers contract, and the oxygenated blood is forced into the arteries. These arteries carry the blood to the tissues where the oxygen is removed. The unoxygenated blood is then returned to the heart via veins, and the process begins again after the blood is reoxygenated by the lungs. The only exception to this is the perfusion of the heart itself. The heart actually perfuses during diastole when the cardiac muscle is relaxed and the blood is pulled into the cardiac tissue.


Think about the plumbing in your home. Let's imagine the arteries are the pipes in your house, the tissues are the faucets, the blood is the water, and the heart is the main water valve outside. If you turned on your faucet and no water came out, what would you do? You'd probably check to make sure water is being supplied to your house. In that same way, doctors would check to make sure the heart is pumping the way it should be. If the main valve was working and you still couldn't get water, you would assume that something is stopping up the pipes. You would find the section of pipe that is stopped up and unclog it. That is exactly how perfusion is restored!

We'll use impaired cardiac perfusion as an example because it is one of the most commonly treated forms. The cardiologist will perform cardiac catheterization to determine where the artery is stopped up. Also known as a heart cath, this procedure uses intravenous dye. X-rays of this dye are taken as it enters the coronary arteries. The dye will stop at the point of blockage.

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