Sep 262012

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is a first aid skill that keeps a person who has severe breathing problems, caused by an obstruction or a cardiac arrest from staying alive long enough to get medical treatment.

The Beginnings

English: Asmund S. Laerdal, the founder of Lae...

Although, Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) was not fully classified as the process we currently use until the 1950s, the beginnings of the resuscitation method were taught in Amsterdam in the mid 1700s. At the time, the city was known to have almost 400 drownings a year; caused by people accidentally falling into the dams. To help minimize this number of accidental deaths, some of the community members founded the Society for Recovery of Drowned Persons.

Within 4 years the society claimed to have saved more than 150 persons thanks to specialized saving techniques, which involved:

1. Warming of the body
2. Removing aspirated water by lowering the victims head and raising his feet.
3. Application of pressure to the abdomen
4. Respiration to the victim using a bellows or sometimes mouth to mouth, with a cloth placed between the mouths.
5. Stimulating the victim’s anus and throat with tobacco smoke.
6. Bloodletting
7. Stimulation of the victims throat.

Of all these techniques, the first four of these are still used, to a degree, by those who practice current modern CPR guidelines. Even though the last three of these techniques were ineffective they were instrumental in people starting to believe that resuscitation was possible.

Once positive results were shown through the Amsterdam rescue project, other similar projects were established; communities began to rise in Germany, London and even in the United States.

Although, this was the first world-known use of these life-saving techniques, experts believe similar saving techniques were used in Asian countries as ancient Ju-Jitsu and Judo books dating back to the 17th century mention some resuscitation techniques.

Following the Amsterdam saving techniques, many different methods invented by scientists and doctors continued to rise and fall. Some had positive effects while others didn’t. Some where, during this period the current back pressure-arm lift taught to Boy Scouts, as recently as the 1950s and 60s, a saving technique for victims who are at risk of drowning. This worked with drowning victims because the initial cessation of breathing is caused by water ingestion, however, the heart still beats for about 5 to 10 minutes. This technique did not help victims of cardiac arrests.

Current CPR Methods

James Elam and Dr. Peter Safar are credited with inventing the current CPR methods in 1954, even though, these techniques are only a more developed technique based on prior ones. They demonstrated that cardiopulmonary resuscitation was a sound technique and preferable to any other prior technique used. In 1957 Peter Safar documented the technique by writing a book called the “ABC of resuscitation.” Safar published his findings after studying the current methods and then wrote on the best CPR methods, including the importance of controlling a person’s breathing and freeing the airway by tilting back the head and opening his mouth prior to using mouth-to mouth breathing resuscitation. The process is then followed by a cardiac massage.

Safar worked hard at broadcasting the book and the combined resuscitation methods listed within. He didn’t consider himself responsible for inventing the method, but simply of organizing methods already in existence and putting them into the book. It was the combined process of maintaining a victim’s airway free, while promoting breathing and circulation. Safar even worked with a Norwegian toy maker Asmund Laerdal to make the first resuscitation mannequin called “Resusci Anne.” The Laerdal company went on to create many more CPR mannequins later becoming a medical equipment manufacturer.

Safar continued promoting the current CPR method throughout his life, creating community-wide emergency medical services (EMS) and founding the International Resuscitation Research Center (IRRC) which he continued to head until 1994.

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