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We have a dog to thank for the discovery of CPR

Yet another reason to snuggle up with your dog tonight. Over 50 years ago, a dog going into cardiac arrest was instrumental in the discovery of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

image from www.bbc.com

 

From the BBC:

In the 1950s, the Edison Electric Institute in the US decided to sponsor researchers to investigate the effects of electrical currents on the heart.

Enter Guy Knickerbocker, a fastidious, 29-year-old graduate working under electrical engineer William Kouwenhoven in one of the labs at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland. They were trying to improve the external defibrillator, which Kouwenhoven had invented a few years earlier. 

In 1958, before the ethical treatment of animals became a serious consideration, their experiments involved testing on laboratory dogs. 

Knickerbocker, now 86 years old, remembers working with a colleague one day when, suddenly, one of the dogs went into cardiac arrest, or ventricle fibrillation (VF).

Normally when this happened, they would use a defibrillator to shock the dog's heart back into rhythm - but that day they were in the lab on the 12th floor and the equipment was on the fifth floor. 

The notoriously slow lifts in the building meant they would never get the defibrillator to the dog in time.

"There is very little chance of survival after cardiac arrest that goes on longer than five minutes," says Knickerbocker.

'Sprang to life'

Knickerbocker had a brainwave. Only a few weeks earlier he had observed that just the pressure of the defibrillator paddles on the dog's chest caused a change in blood pressure.

Did this change in pressure mean that the blood was moving around the body? 

He took a chance: "We started to pump the dog's chest because it seemed to be the right thing to do."

Knickerbocker raced along the stairs to the fifth floor to get the defibrillator while his colleagues pressed the dog's chest for 20 minutes - four times longer than any previous successful attempt.

When he arrived back with the defibrillator and administered two shocks, the dog sprang back to life. 

The importance of their discovery cannot be overstated; the experiment established beyond doubt that rhythmic pressing of the chest could sustain life.

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