“Medical Creep” – How CPR Gained Popularity and Prominence Since 1960
How did cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) become the most popular way to treat cardiac arrest victims? It wasn’t official medical doctrine forced upon the public. It wasn’t random chance, either. No, CPR became a well-known medical practice due to something called “medical creep.”
According to a recent article by Brendan Reilly in The Atlantic, CPR got its start back in 1960, when surgeons at Johns Hopkins started a practice called “closed-chest cardiac massage.” Before this, doctors had to actually open a patient’s chest cavity and massage the heart. Aside from the obvious infection risks this posed, it also was time-consuming enough that, many times, it would be too late to save the person suffering from cardiac arrest.
The “medical creep” happened when the Johns Hopkins doctors and medical professionals started the closed-chest cardiac massage. Despite no evidence that the practical actually worked, the initial results were impressive enough to continue it – even though the so-called medical “experts” were skeptical (to say the least). This was CPR’s foot in the door, so to speak. Years of refining the procedure and tons of research did the rest.
Because the new method gained a foothold, it was only a matter of time before this effective, relatively easy-to-follow procedure found its way into mainstream medical practice. Even though the efficacy (results of CPR in ideal conditions) didn’t equate with the effectiveness (results of CPR in real-world conditions), CPR was well on its way to becoming widely-used throughout the United States and the world.
Medical creep, according to Reilly, has its pros and cons. But in the case of CPR, the creep has overall beneficial – after all, the end result was a practice that normal citizens (not just healthcare workers, nurses, doctors and the like) can use with effective training.
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