Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of CPR


CPR saves lives today, thanks to groundbreaking research that debuted fifty years ago this month.


Dallas / Fort Worth, TX — September 15, 2010 — Over the past fifty years, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, has become a household term. In fact, it’s become a term commonly heard and a concept taught in schools, community centers, houses of worship and places of business daily around the country. For many people, it’s hard to remember or imagine a time before CPR.


However, before September 16, 1960, a heart attack victim’s best hope for survival was a thoracotomy - a sternum-cracking procedure to open the chest cavity – which allowed a surgeon to manually squeeze the heart to force blood circulation. Should the patient survive the thoracotomy, such dramatic and invasive procedures carried tremendous risks and often resulted in life-threatening complications.


In the Scientific Session of the Medical and Chirurgical Faculty’s semiannual meeting at the Commander Hotel in Ocean City Maryland, Dr.’s William B. Kouwenhoven, Peter Safar and James R. Jude and Paul Hackett changed everything. During their 12:30 pm presentation on “external cardiac massage and artificial ventilation,” the doctors initiated a revolution in cardiac arrest care that has since saved countless lives worldwide.

“This presentation outlined a completely non-invasive, external procedure combining chest compressions and artificial respiration,” says Dr. Ray Fowler, Professor of Emergency Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “Part of what made this so astonishing was that the basic concept would allow non-medical bystanders to actively participate in patient care and truly impact outcomes.”

The presentation and subsequent articles in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and the Maryland State Medical Journal presented scientific evidence that compressing the chest externally could provide 40-60% of normal arterial blood flow, enough to give patients a fighting chance. In fact, the research concluded that 72% of cardiac arrest patients in the study were resuscitated using this external process instead of a thoracotomy.


Three years after the debut of the invention of CPR, the American Heart Association formed a CPR Committee and formally endorsed it as a lifesaving intervention. In 1966, demand from medical professionals resulted in the standardization of training and performance indicators. The city of Seattle, Washington embraced the importance of public education in CPR training in the 1970’s and now leads the nation in CPR certification and participation by citizens.


Today, statistics from the American Heart Association show that for the more than 300,000 cardiac arrest patients in the US, early and effective CPR can double or even triple their chances of survival. And, new data suggests that chest compressions alone may be the most crucial element.


For paramedics in the field, success in cardiac arrest cases is measured by the return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC). ROSC occurs when the heart of a patient in cardiac arrest begins beating on its own during resuscitation. MedStar, the largest emergency medical services provider in Tarrant County, has seen startling increases in ROSC rates since 2008 due in large part to an increased focus on providing vigorous and uninterrupted chest compressions.

“MedStar began a shift toward chest-compression-only CPR in 2008 based on findings coming from the American Heart Association,” says MedStar’s medical director and member of the Emergency Physicians Advisory Board, Dr. Jeff Beeson. “Combined with a few other changes in our cardiac care protocols, MedStar’s ROSC rates have jumped almost 270% over the past two years and our longer-term survival rates are almost twice the national average.”

Chest-compression only CPR training is quick, easy and lifesaving. In less than the time it takes to watch most reality TV shows, a person as young as nine can learn to perform chest compressions, potentially helping a cardiac arrest victim become a real-life Survivor.


MedStar has begun hosting chest compression training sessions at community events, city meetings and area businesses in the hope of increasing the public’s ability and willingness to aid cardiac arrest victims. Considering that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US, learning chest compressions is definitely time well-spent.


To request a chest-compression only training session, visit MedStar's Chest Compression Training page.


About MedStar
Responding to over 100,000 calls each year, MedStar EMS is the exclusive emergency and non-emergency ambulance service provider to over 880,000 residents throughout Fort Worth and 14 other Tarrant County cities including Haltom City, Burleson, Saginaw, White Settlement, Forest Hill, River Oaks, Lake Worth, Sansom Park, Westworth Village, Blue Mound, Edgecliff Village, Haslet, Lakeside and Westover Hills. Established in 1986, MedStar is governed by the Area Metropolitan Ambulance Authority board of directors and is one of only 132 ambulance services in the country to receive national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services.