Hong Kong Red Cross - Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) From Ancient to Modern


Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) From Ancient to Modern


Dr. Y. C. Siu 
(Member, Health Services Management Committee, Hong Kong Red Cross) 

Cardiac arrest is a very dangerous situation. If a patient cannot get proper treatment within a short time, it can cause serious brain injury and can even be fatal. The purpose of CPR is to use external forces to assist the patient’s blood circulation and exchange of air, so that the vital organs of the body, such as the heart and brain, can receive a limited amount of oxygen which improves one's survival. Let us take a look at the development of CPR over time.

“Primitive” Era: 
Before the 19th century, medical knowledge was not mature. From the modern perspective, the first aid methods people used at that time are inconceivable.



For example, a patient would be put on back of a running horse; 


Hang the patient upside down;


Insert a tube from the patient’s anus and 
blew smoke into his/her body through the tube.

Indeed, few survived after receiving these treatments.


Modern Times:
From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, there were two methods of CPR widely used until the late 20th century, when they were replaced by mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.


1. Silvester Method


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First let the patient lay on his or her back, pull his or her arms over the head to assist breathing in and press the arms over the chest for breathing out. Repeat the set 16 times per minute.


2. Holger Nielsen Method

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Applicable to patients lying prone, the Holger Nielsen Method is like a reverse of the Silvester Method. First, turn the patient’s head to one side, bend his or her elbows and rest the head on his or her palm. Then compress the patient’s back to expel the air and pull his elbows and upper body up to allow air going in. Repeat the set 16 times per minute.



Modern CPR