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Leading Heart Expert Comments on 50 Years of Progress in CPR - 11/15/2010

Leading Heart Expert Comments on 50 Years of Progress in CPR

Release Date: November 15, 2010

In remarks prepared for the American Heart Association’s golden anniversary celebration of CPR, a Johns Hopkins cardiologist who learned the life-saving technique as a medical student 46 years ago from one of CPR’s pioneers suggests the future of the technique is as bright as its past.

Myron “Mike” Weisfeldt, a former AHA president (1989-90) and physician in chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital says, “Now the focus can be on refinements and new guidelines that enable bystanders to more easily learn and perform rapid chest compressions that we now know are saving more lives.”

Weisfeldt, author and architect of many studies designed to update and promote CPR, is the moderator of special anniversary presentations honoring the 50-year history of CPR and  publication of the first report of successful “closed-chest cardiac massage” in dogs in 1960.

The session, planned for Nov. 15 at the American Heart Association’s annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago, will review the history of CPR and decades of research now showing that 30 percent to 50 percent of people whose hearts suddenly stop will survive if they undergo CPR and defibrillation within minutes of cardiac arrest.

“I doubt the original founders of CPR -- three of whom I’m proud to say were at Johns Hopkins -- thought they would ever have this kind of everlasting global impact on public health,” says Weisfeldt.

The three, Weisfeldt notes, were William Kouwenhoven, Ph.D., Guy Knickerbocker, Ph.D., and James Jude, M.D., authors of the 1960 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Their research eventually demonstrated, he adds, that regular, rhythmic chest compressions raised blood pressure enough to keep sufficient blood flowing to the brain and other key organs, buying enough time to get a defibrillator to the patient and restart their heart. 

Weisfeldt, who has championed bystander CPR and public access to automated external defibrillators in airports and other public places, says he first learned CPR from Peter Safar, M.D., called the “father of CPR,” who worked at what eventually became Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. It was Safar and James Elam, M.D., another Baltimore physician, who in 1958 published research on mouth-to-mouth ventilation in humans.

Covering the historical sweep of CPR development over the past half century, Weisfeldt’s remarks focus also on the first portable coronary care unit, installed in an ambulance in 1965; the Medic One Program in Seattle, Wash., begun in 1970, which introduced the team approach to cardiac resuscitation and bystander CPR; and the contributions of the American Heart Association and American Red Cross in CPR training and in the updating of standards and guidelines.

Weisfeldt, the William Osler Professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, wrote the New England Journal of Medicine editorial in July supporting compression-only CPR on adults by bystanders, eliminating initially mouth-to-mouth breathing, a frequent barrier to public use of CPR.

Looking ahead to the future of CPR, Weisfeldt’s remarks emphasize new and ongoing initiatives in the use of body cooling and other methods to increase preservation of brain function after resuscitation and new devices to compress the chest.

For the Media

Media Contact:  David March