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When Was CPR Invented and How Has it Changed? 


Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, more commonly known as CPR, is an important life-saving procedure that anyone can learn. Through a combination of chest compressions and rescue breaths, a trained bystander can provide life-saving assistance to victims of sudden cardiac arrests or any other medical emergency that causes the heart to stop. When CPR is properly performed, the survival rate of cardiac arrest victims dramatically increases and can prove to be the vital difference as you wait for medical assistance to arrive. 

But CPR didn’t always look this way. While most of us can easily recognize the cycle of chest compressions and rescue breaths, this procedure has a much longer and more unusual history than most of us would think. By looking back and observing the evolution of this medical procedure, however, we can learn more about the history of medicine and why CPR is performed the way it is today. In this blog, we’re reviewing the history of CPR, noting when it was invented, and how it has changed over the years. 

At the American HealthCare Academy, our entire team is dedicated to providing comprehensive and accessible CPR training and certification. With our 100 percent online classes, it’s never been easier to learn this important skill and receive your official certification faster than ever. We believe that everyone should be trained in performing CPR both safely and effectively. With CPR training and certification, you’ll have the skills, knowledge, and confidence to potentially save a life. 


This question is trickier to answer than you might initially think. While CPR as we know it today is only about sixty years old, there were many different techniques developed over the years aimed at restoring circulation to the body and helping the heart function for the victim of a medical emergency. 

So, where do we begin? As early as the 1500s, physicians were developing methods to provide oxygen to a patient. Their method? Use fireplace bellows inserted into the mouth of the victim to quickly force air into the lungs. It took a few hundred more years for mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to appear in the history of medicine. 

Many people cite the year 1740 as the true birth of CPR when the Paris Academy of Sciences first recommended mouth-to-mouth resuscitation for drowning victims. A few decades later we had the formation of the Society for the Recovery of Drowned Persons in England (later becoming the Royal Humane Society), which was the first organized effort aimed at reviving these victims.  

In the 1850s, two British doctors developed competing methods of artificial respiration. The Hall Method, named after Marshall Hall, advocated for repositioning the patient to their side and apply pressure to the thorax to open the airway. The Silvester Method, developed by physician Henry Silvester, raised the patient’s arms to expand the chest and then crossed them back down over the chest to apply expiratory pressure. Both methods were commonly used roughly until the beginning of the 20th century.

In 1903, CPR saw a major step forward. American doctor George Crile reported the first successful use of chest compressions for a victim. Roughly fifty years later, Austrian physician Peter Safar introduced rescue breaths to the procedure. When used in tandem, these two techniques eventually formed our contemporary version of CPR. In 1960, this technique became the official approach to CPR and the American Heart Association (AHA) initiated the first program aimed at training individuals in performing CPR. 


There’s no doubt that we’ve come a long way since bellows and being dragged behind horses. As medical knowledge and healthcare tools have developed, we’ve learned much more about how the body works and how to treat injuries and ailments. This is why CPR continues to evolve, grow, and improve as a life-saving procedure.

In the past sixty years or so, there haven’t been changes as dramatic as using fireplace bellows or massaging the heart during surgery; however, this doesn’t mean CPR isn’t changing. One of the more recent changes to CPR is the focus on hands-only CPR. As the name suggests, this approach to CPR advocates for only using chest compressions and leaving out the rescue breaths. Many experts claim that this technique is just as effective as traditional CPR. Additionally, hands-only CPR may encourage more bystanders to act if they’re uncomfortable providing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

In addition to hands-only CPR, there have also been other updates to CPR in recent years. Another example is checking for life. Experts now suggest you should wait until you’ve completed a few cycles of CPR before checking for a pulse. Why exactly? Experts argue that the time spent checking for vital signs—especially in the early moments—would be better spent providing life-saving chest compressions. 

One of the most recent changes to CPR has been in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. To protect bystanders during this difficult time, updates to CPR guidelines have been made, including the use of personal protective equipment (if available) and limiting physical contact between the victim and bystander. They also advocate for the use of hands-only CPR to reduce the potential for transmission of COVID-19. 


Without a doubt, the internet and digital technologies have revolutionized our world. Changing the ways we communicate, learn, and express ourselves, no aspect of our lives has remained untouched by these new technologies. CPR training and certification is no different. While not exactly changing how CPR is performed, digital technologies and online learning has certainly changed how CPR is taught. With CPR classes online, it’s now easier than ever for healthcare organizations to train more individuals and make this life-saving procedure accessible to almost everyone. 


The one certainty in our lives is change. And when it comes to CPR, this rule is no different. While this medical procedure may seem pretty straightforward and unchanging, the history of CPR reveals a different story. From the Bellows Method, the Hall Method, electrical shocks, to massaging the heart during surgery, there has been a wide variety of techniques aimed at restoring circulation and helping the heart do its job.

As medical knowledge broadens and our tools advance, it only makes sense that CPR would continue to evolve and improve. By consistently updating this medical procedure, healthcare organizations and CPR instructors can ensure that students are receiving the best information and are taught the most effective techniques. In the event of an emergency, these updates could prove to be the difference between life and death.

Over the past 11 years, the American HealthCare Academy has trained and certified over 700,000 students in CPR, First Aid, healthcare CPR/AED or Automated External Defibrillation courses, and more. With our convenient and accessible online CPR certification classes, it’s simply never been easier to learn these important skills and earn your official CPR certification. To make our world a safer place, we’re dedicated to training as many individuals as possible in life-saving skills. 

For more information on our full range of online classes, contact us today or browse our online CPR certification course. You can also call us at 1-888-277-7865 to speak with a member of our team. We’re looking forward to working with you soon. 

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