How CPR Guidelines Have Evolved: A Look Back in History


The world has come a long way since the 1960s when CPR was first taught in schools, the military, and even by some doctors. Now, most people know that CPR should be performed right away if someone experiences cardiac arrest—but how we perform it has changed quite a bit over time.

Before 1960, CPR was taught in schools and by the military.

Before 1960, CPR was taught in schools and by the military. In fact, it wasn't until 1966 that anyone even thought to teach CPR in hospitals. Before that time, people learned how to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on family members who had suffered cardiac arrest at home or at work.

After 1960, however, things started changing rapidly: First came out-of-hospital cardiac arrest calls for help (OHCAs), which meant more people were learning how to perform CPR outside of hospitals; then there was widespread acceptance of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as an alternative method for delivering oxygenated blood back into the body; finally came AEDs (automated external defibrillators) as well as other technological advances like pulse oximeters (used for monitoring oxygen levels).

The 1960s saw a surge in CPR training.

The 1960s saw a surge in CPR training. The decade was a time of great change for the United States, as well as for medicine. The first automated external defibrillators (AEDs) were invented in 1965, and they became widely available to the public in the 1980s. In 1967, Dr. Peter Safar published his landmark paper on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation techniques that would become known as mouth-to-mouth ventilation or rescue breathing--the most common way we perform resuscitation today.

In the early 1970s, doctors started using chest compressions to help keep blood flowing.

In the early 1970s, doctors started using chest compressions to help keep blood flowing. The effectiveness of this technique was discovered by a medical student named Kouwenhoven who was observing a heart attack patient at a hospital in Holland. When he saw that the man's heart had stopped beating and his body temperature was dropping rapidly, he started performing CPR on him until an ambulance arrived--and it worked!

The importance of getting the timing right cannot be overstated; if you don't do chest compressions correctly, then you can actually cause more harm than good by interrupting the flow of oxygenated blood through your loved one's body. It may seem daunting at first glance but there are some simple steps you can follow that will ensure optimal results:

In the 1980s and 1990s, more research showed how crucial it was to start CPR right away.

A key part of CPR is chest compressions. To perform them, place the heel of your hand in the center of the other person's chest (right above their heart). Put enough pressure on their sternum to push it down by about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters). Release and repeat at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute.

The recommended approach for performing CPR on an adult or child who has stopped breathing or whose heart has stopped beating normally involves 30 compressions followed by 2 rescue breaths for every minute that passes. Additionally, if an automated external defibrillator (AED) is available nearby, it is advised to use it promptly after calling 911!

Automated external defibrillators tripled survival rates for heart attack victims.

AEDs are portable devices that deliver a shock to the heart. They are used to restart the heart after a cardiac arrest. AEDs can be used by anyone, even if you don't know what you're doing.

To use an AED:

  • Open up the case of your Automated External Defibrillator (AED).
  • Remove its battery cover and place your finger on its "Safety Switch." This will prevent accidental shocks from occurring when you handle other parts of the device later on in this process.
  • Insert two AA batteries into their slots in order for them both to work properly.
  • Place electrodes on bare skin near where they will apply pressure against someone's chest while they lie face down on top of one another during CPR chest compressions.
  • Press the "Charge/Test" button until the green light comes on; then press the "Clear/Test" button again until the red light appears.
  • If no green lights appear after either charge cycle has finished running through all four stages (1) charging followed by 2) testing 3 times each), then remove batteries from the unit before replacing them again with new ones because old ones may not be working properly anymore due 
  • When ready turn machine off using the power switch located at the bottom left corner next door towards the right side away from charger port; wait 60 seconds before turning back on again

By 2000, CPR had been incorporated into first aid classes nationwide.

By 2000, CPR had been incorporated into first aid classes nationwide. It was also being taught in schools and by the military.

By that time, CPR was no longer just for medical professionals; it had become an essential skill for anyone who wished to save a life.

The way we do CPR has changed dramatically over time.

In the 1960s, CPR was taught as a method of chest compressions only. It was believed that ventilations were unnecessary, and some textbooks even instructed rescuers to keep their fingers away from the victim's mouth during ventilation.

In the 1970s, research showed that high-quality chest compressions were essential for effective CPR. This led to the development of guidelines for ratios between compressions and breaths: Compressions should be given at least 100 times per minute (or about once every 6 seconds), with 30 breaths delivered after every 30 chest compressions. In addition, rescuers were instructed not to tilt their heads back when performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation because this can force air into the stomach instead of into the lungs--a problem known as gastric inflation or "airlock."


The history of CPR is one of constant evolution and improvement. From its beginnings as a military practice, it has become an essential part of first aid training around the world. We hope that this article has shown how much our understanding of this lifesaving technique has changed over time--and how it continues to evolve today!


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