Because it’s so simple, the basic techniques have been floating around for hundreds of years, even millennia—but it took a lot of coordination, and an accidental discovery, to put them all together into what we now recognize as CPR. Press on to learn more.
89%: Proportion of Norwegian students trained in CPR
27%: Proportion of Chinese students trained in CPR
<1 b="">1> <1 b="">1> Proportion of Chinese sufferers of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests who survive
2: Minutes within which a rescuer has to start CPR to protect a person’s brain from injury
5: Minutes that compression-only CPR is effective without rescue breaths
$1,275: Cost of the best-selling automatic external defibrillator on Amazon
45%: Proportion of cardiac arrest sufferers who survive after receiving bystander CPR
Say a person collapses in front of you on the street. It looks like they had a heart attack. What do you do?
When a person is having a seizure
When a person is having a drug overdose
When a person is having a stroke
1930s: Electrical companies fund defibrillation research to treat victims of electrocution.
1956: American physician James Elam and Austrian-Czech physician Peter Safar share a ride between Kansas City and Baltimore and debate whether mouth-to-mouth helps unresponsive victims. The two collaborate on experiments to develop what we know today as CPR.
1965: Irish cardiologist Frank Pantridge builds the first portable defibrillator; powered by car batteries, it weighs 70 kg (150 pounds).
(One author even suggests that anti-German sentiment contributed to external compression’s disuse.)
There’s no question that CPR saves lives. But there’s a growing awareness that it can cause damage, too. Some people who receive CPR get their ribs broken in the process.
But if a patient is older, with other health problems such as cancer, the prospect of a few weeks in the intensive care unit might sound more painful than just letting the cardiac arrest run its course. This is part of the reason why so many doctors have Do Not Resuscitate orders, Abella says. “This has less to do with side effects of CPR and more to do with the bigger picture: if one is so sick that one needs CPR, is this something you’d even want done?” Abella says.