Stayin’ Alive with CPR

A doctor in Hawaii mixed the Bee Gees with CPR, and is helping to save lives the world over.

I love the RadioLab podcast out of WNYC. In today’s 15-minute short, they close with a segment by show producer Ellen Horne. She visits a CPR class in New York City, and talks about one of the challenges of teaching the lifesaving skill: tempo.  If you compress a patient’s chest too slowly, you don’t build up enough pressure to get blood circulating. If you do it too quickly, you don’t give the heart enough time to fill with blood. The magic pace at which to do chest compressions? 100 beats per minute.

Of course, humans don’t have built-in metronomes. Fortunately, research has shown that when people recall music, they also recall its tempo with remarkable accuracy. So, the trick is to find a song to sing in your head (or out loud, I guess) while you perform CPR. The song that’s now used the world over to teach CPR? the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.”

This clever discovery is attributed to Dr. Alson Inaba, a pediatric emergency specialist at the University of Hawaii. And the RadioLab piece features a short interview with him.

As it turns out, this is old news. Dr. Inaba actually published his finding in a journal of the American Heart Association in 2006, and he’s periodically featured in the news (such as this Chicago Tribune piece last year). A quick Google search turned up this fun segment on KGMB9’s morning news from February of this year.

Still, it was a new bit of trivia for me. And helpful, too.  When I was first AHA certified in CPR in 2004, we didn’t know the Bee Gees trick, and just counted “one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand…”  I now know that pacing was far too slow.  So here’s to Hawaii’s own Dr. Alson Inaba, getting some deserved recognition for turning a ’70s disco tune into a lifesaving tool.

By the way, in the RadioLab segment, they note another song with a 100bps tempo: “Another One Bites the Dust.”

1 Response

  1. Eric says:

    I’ve heard that another song with the right tempo is Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” – but somehow that doesn’t seem to send the right message.

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