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Peter Josef Safar

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 11 September 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:624

The father of cardiopulmonary resuscitation

Peter Safar, a pioneer in critical care medicine and a three-time Nobel prize nominee for medicine, was known as the father of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

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During the 1950s, Safar designed a daring experiment, one that he acknowledged could not be repeated in later years—he sedated and paralysed volunteers. Then he would tilt a volunteer's head back and thrust the jaw forward, demonstrating effective airway opening. He also proved that a long forgotten manoeuvre, the “kiss of life,” or mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, was far more effective than the then standard chest pressure and arm lift technique.

Safar emphasised that saving the heart and lungs would have little value if the brain were not similarly protected. He promoted cardiopulmonary cerebral resuscitation, or CPCR, which relied on mild hypothermia to preserve cerebral function. He also performed studies on dogs to examine whether profound hypothermia could induce at least a brief state of suspended animation—something that he hoped could prove useful in …

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