Listening to music during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training may help people keep to the recommended compression rate, according to a study in the Christmas issue published on bmj.com today.
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an important lifesaving technique that can be effectively taught to most people. When initiated by a bystander one to two minutes before emergency services arrive it can double survival rates.
Mentally singing the nursery tune Nellie the Elephant is sometimes recommended during CPR training because of its appropriate rhythm and tempo to help individuals keep a rate of 100 compressions per minute, as recommended by UK Resuscitation Council guidelines.
So a team of researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Coventry and Hertfordshire, and the West Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust, set out to test whether this really does help lay people to improve their CPR performance.
A total of 130 staff and students at Coventry University, untrained in CPR, were given a brief demonstration on a resuscitation manikin and had one minute to practise while listening to a metronome.
Participants were then asked to perform three sequences of one minute of continuous chest compressions accompanied by no music, repeated choruses of Nellie the Elephant by Little Bear, and That's the Way (I Like It) by KC and the Sunshine Band via headphones.
Both songs were chosen for their appropriate tempo - 105 beats per minute (bpm) for Nellie the Elephant and 109 bpm for That's the Way (I Like It).
Listening to Nellie the Elephant significantly increased the proportion of participants delivering compression rates at close to 100 per minute (32%) compared with 12% for no music and 9% for That's the Way (I Like It).
Unfortunately, it also increased the proportion of compressions delivered at an inadequate depth.
As current resuscitation guidelines give equal emphasis to correct compression rate and depth, listening to Nellie the Elephant as a learning aid during CPR training cannot be recommended, say the authors.
An earlier pilot study used the Bee Gees song Stayin' Alive. The BMJ authors suggest that further research is required to identify music that, when played during CPR training, improves chest compression performance. Potential tunes include Another One Bites the Dust by Queen, Quit Playing Games (With my Heart) by the Backstreet Boys, and Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus.