More than 300,000 Americans die each year of cardiac arrest. According to doctors at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, restarting the heart by pressing rhythmically on the chest--known as cardiopulmonary resuscitation--is successful only about 15% of the time. So a team at Johns Hopkins has been working since 1981 on a vest that surrounds the torso like a giant blood-pressure cuff. Doctors there estimate that it can restart the heart at least twice as often as manual CPR, with less injury to patients' ribs, lungs, and livers. The latest version covers a larger portion of the chest than earlier ones and doesn't completely release the pressure between squeezes.
Hopkins is seeking Food & Drug Administration approval to test the vest on 400 patients at several medical centers. A company called CardioLogic Systems Inc., which is part-owned by the Hopkins inventors, plans to manufacture and sell the vests once they receive an FDA O.K. Hopkins' involvement is no surprise: Modern methods of manual CPR were pioneered at the medical center in the late 1950s.