When the Wall Street Journal last visited the subject of music-assisted cardiopulmonary resuscitation, the hit song under consideration was "Stayin’ Alive" by the Bee Gees. The American Heart Association says the beat of the popular disco tune helps rescuers achieve the desired chest compression rate of about 100 per minute when trying to revive victims of sudden cardiac arrest.
Now a team of emergency medicine specialists from the U.K. and Australia has published a study that proposed to expand the repertoire. The setting was a meeting of the Australian College of Ambulance Professionals in Auckland, New Zealand, where the researchers recruited 74 men and women — half of whom had been trained in CPR during the previous year — to test two other tunes in a showdown to determine which was better in helping to maintain a compression rate of 100 to 120 per minute. The contestants: "Disco Science" by Mirwais and "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus. They were also tested against CPR without listening to music.
The study was just published online by the Emergency Medicine Journal under the headline “Achy breaky makey wakey heart?”
Survival after sudden cardiac arrest depends in part on achieving both a consistent compression rate as well as a recommended compression depth — five to six centimeters under U.K. guidelines — and even well-trained professionals have trouble hitting the marks, researchers say, never mind volunteer bystanders.
This was no second-rate effort. Researchers verified the tempo of each tune using MixMeister BPM Analyzer — 121 beats per minute for Achy Breaky Heart and 105 for Disco Science. The songs were carefully edited “so that relevant portions were repeated for an appropriate interval,” according to the study, led by Malcolm Woollard of the Pre-hospital, Emergency and Cardiovascular Care Applied Research Group at Coventry University in Coventry, U.K.
No patients were revived to the tune of either song: CPR was performed on a manikin.
The winner was "Disco Science." Listening to that song resulted in hitting the target compression rate 82 percent of the time, the study says, compared to 64 percent for "Achy Breaky Heart" and 65 percent for no music.
The trouble is, researchers said, over a third of compressions failed to hit the desired depth, and in half to two-thirds of cases the would-be rescuers failed to place their hands properly on the training dummy.