The Evolution of CPR

CPR techniques may have changed over the years but it remains a key life saving skill


Paul McFarlane

4/11/20232 min read

I recently came across this curious photo from the 1940s showing a method of resuscitation that was popular at the time. It made me want to know more about the evolution of Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, which is a life-saving technique that involves providing compressions and rescue breaths when a person’s heart has stopped beating.

The history of resuscitation dates back to the mid-1700s, but it was not until the 1960s that a standardised method for CPR was developed. The Schaefer resuscitation method used alternating chest compressions with rescue breaths to maintain blood flow and oxygenation. This technique was soon adopted by medical professionals and became the standard for CPR training around the world.

Back in the 1980s, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended a ratio of 5 chest compressions to 1 rescue breath, and then in the 1990s the ratio was updated to 15 chest compressions to 2 rescue breaths. These guidelines were updated once again in 2005 introducing a ratio of 30 compressions to 2 breaths. These changes were based on research that showed that chest compressions alone could maintain adequate blood flow and oxygenation in many cases, and that rescue breaths were not always necessary.

Today, the AHA recommends hands-only CPR for adults who have suffered cardiac arrest. This technique involves performing chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 compressions per minute, without the need for rescue breaths. Hands-only CPR has been shown to be just as effective as traditional CPR, but it is much easier to learn and perform.

The Australian Resuscitation Council says that any attempt at resuscitation is better than none - which means that you do not have to be ‘qualified’ to use CPR to try to save someone's life. However, to conduct quality CPR, you should be trained in the latest CPR methodology and practice regularly to ensure that you are prepared in the event of an emergency.

Resuscitation guidelines may have changed over the years, but to improve the chances of survival for someone in cardiac arrest, we still need trained First Responders who are able to provide effective CPR. By keeping up with your CPR training and being willing to help, you will make a real difference and potentially save a life.