Since the implementation of a paramedic system in Seattle, yearly survival rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest due to ventricular fibrillation have averaged 25% without any significant increase over the years. Outcome for cardiac arrest associated with other rhythms has been poor: when asystole was the first rhythm recorded, only 1% of patients survived; when electromechanical dissociation was initially present, only 6% survived. For cases of electromechanical dissociation, neither the type of rhythm nor the rate appear to influence outcome. Survival from ventricular fibrillation can be improved by shortening the delay to initiation of CPR and to defibrillation. When outcome in 244 witnessed arrests was related to the times to beginning CPR and to initial defibrillation, mortality increased 3% each minute until CPR was begun and 4% a minute until the first shock was delivered. New strategies that minimize delays appear to have the greatest promise for improving survival after cardiac arrest.