The development and improvement of cardiopulmonary bypass technology is an ongoing process. During the past decade, a number of publications on improvements and best practices have appeared, especially in the areas of biocompatibility, materials sciences, instrumentation, monitoring of physiological parameters and knowledge base (education and evidence-based medicine). Biocompatibility may be defined not only as an inherent property of a particular composition of matter, but also as a set of properties concerning shape, finish, fabrication techniques and choice of application. Materials in use for cardiopulmonary bypass have changed and coated components have been used frequently. Improvements in the area of instrumentation were achieved by adaptation of conventional cardiopulmonary bypass circuits. Miniaturization and re-design of cardiopulmonary bypass circuits (so-called minimized perfusion circuits or minimal extracorporeal circulation circuits) have made cardiopulmonary bypass technology less traumatic. A team approach, including the cardiac surgeon, the anesthesiologist and the cardiovascular perfusionist, was deemed beneficial in order to achieve further improvements. Next to choice of technology and material for a given operation, adjunct measures such as pharmaceutical treatment and blood conservation strategies need to be taken into consideration. Monitoring of variables during cardiopulmonary bypass has made some progress, while the knowledge base has expanded due to studies on best practices. For the immediate future, sound scientific knowledge and intelligent monitoring tools will allow cardiopulmonary bypass to be tailored to individual patients’ needs.