CPR has origins dating back to the 1700’s. In 1741, The Paris Academy of Sciences officially recommended mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning victims. More than 100 years later in 1891, Dr. Friedrich Maass performed the first equivocally documented chest compression in humans. In 1960, a group of resuscitation pioneers, Drs Peter Safar, James Jude, and William Bennett Kouwenhoven, combined mouth-to-mouth breathing with chest compressions to create Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, the lifesaving action we now call “CPR.”

In the 1960s, with the formal endorsement of CPR and the start of a program to acquaint physicians with closed-chest cardiac resuscitation, the American Heart Association became the forerunner of CPR training for the general public. Today, through its global Training Network of close to 300,000 Instructors and more than 3500 authorized Training Centers, the AHA trains more than 12 million people annually in CPR, first aid and advanced cardiovascular life support.

Throughout the years, CPR has evolved from a technique performed almost exclusively by physicians and healthcare professionals. Today it’s a lifesaving skill that is simple enough for anyone to learn. However, research has shown that several factors prevent bystanders from taking action, including fear that they will perform CPR incorrectly, fear of legal liability, and fear of infection from performing mouth-to-mouth.

Recommendations outlined in the 2010 AHA Guidelines for CPR & ECC (Emergency Cardiovascular Care) continue to simplify CPR for rescuers, so that more people can and will act in the event of an emergency. However, to get CPR and first aid training into the hands of every person, from healthcare providers to bystanders, the way that the AHA delivers training and information also has evolved.

Through scientific research, the AHA has been able not only to create specialized training for professionals, but to lead the way in developments like Hands-OnlyTM CPR for bystanders, so that more victims have a chance at survival. It was 2008 when AHA first endorsed Hands-Only CPR – the two-step technique of calling 9-1-1 and pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives. Through the AHA’s Hands-Only CPR Ad Council campaign and other exciting initiatives, AHA is spreading the message that anyone can and should learn the simple skills that can save a life.

With its Alliance partner, Laerdal Medical, in 2005, AHA launched the revolutionary CPR Anytime® personal learning program, developed to increase CPR knowledge among the general public. CPR Anytime and Infant CPR Anytime kits contain everything needed to learn basic CPR skills in about 20 minutes. You can learn skills from the comfort of your home or in a group setting, and then share the kit with close family members and friends to pass on skills to others.

To help deliver training to busy healthcare professionals and employees with a duty to respond to emergencies in the workplace, in 2007 AHA created OnlineAHA.org, which today offers a variety of online courses in basic and advanced life support, CPR and first aid, stroke education, rhythm recognition and more.  To date, more than 1.25 million people have completed courses through OnlineAHA.org!

The AHA also has been able to create tools for the general public that deliver real-time lifesaving information. The AHA Pocket First Aid & CPR Smartphone Application – AHA’s first app – amazingly helped Dan Wooley, a U.S. filmmaker trapped for more than 60 hours in rubble from the massive January 12, 2010, Haiti earthquake survive. He was able to treat his injuries using information found on the app, which features hundreds of pages of illustrations covering CPR and first aid procedures, and more than 40 detailed videos.

Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA) & CPR Fast Facts

  • Every year in the US, EMS treats almost 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests – that’s more than 1,000 a day.

  • Almost 80 percent of sudden cardiac arrests happen at home and are witnessed by a loved one. Put very simply: The life you save with CPR is mostly likely to be the life of someone you love.

  • Currently, less than 12 percent of victims survive sudden cardiac arrest. Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 41 percent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.

  • Sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone at any time. Many victims appear healthy with no known heart disease or other risk factors.

  • Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. Sudden cardiac arrest occurs when electrical impulses in the heart become rapid or chaotic, which causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is blocked. A heart attack may cause cardiac arrest.

  • African-Americans are almost twice as likely to experience cardiac arrest at home, work or in another public location than Caucasians, and their survival rates are twice as poor as for Caucasians.

  • The AHA trains 13 million people in CPR annually, to equip Americans with the skills they need to perform bystander CPR.

  • The most effective rate for chest compressions is greater than 100 compressions per minute – the same rhythm as the beat of the BeeGee’s song, “Stayin’ Alive.”

©2012, American Heart Association