December 14, 2009 / 12:30 AM / 9 years ago

Can "Nellie the Elephant" help your heart beat?

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Humming to upbeat songs like “Nellie the Elephant” while compressing the chest of a heart attack victim could improve a life-saving heart resuscitation technique, scientists said Monday.

A study into cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training found that listening to music with the right tempo helped people keep to a rate of 100 chest compressions per minute — the rate recommended in expert guidelines.

CPR is a potentially life-saving technique that can be taught to people with no other medical skills. It can double heart attack survival rates if it is carried out on a patient one to two minutes before emergency services arrive.

Researchers from the Universities of Birmingham, Coventry and Hertfordshire in Britain gave 130 untrained volunteers a brief demonstration on a resuscitation mannequin.

The participants had one minute to practice while listening to a metronome and were then asked to perform three sequences of one minute of continuous chest compressions while listening on headphones to the songs “Nellie the Elephant,” by Little Bear, and “That’s the Way (I Like It),” by KC and the Sunshine Band.

The songs were chosen for their tempo, the researchers wrote in the study in the British Medical Journal. Nellie the Elephant has 105 beats per minute and That’s the Way has 106.

“Listening to Nellie the Elephant significantly increased the proportion of participants delivering compression rates at close to 100 per minute,” the researchers wrote.

Around 32 percent of volunteers got the rate right with Nellie, compared with 12 percent for no music and 9 percent for That’s the Way, the researchers wrote.

But it also increased the number of compressions which were not hard enough, and since the rate and depth of chest compressions is important for CPR, Nellie could not be recommended as an accompaniment until more research was done, they said,

An earlier pilot study used the Bee Gees song “Stayin’ Alive,” and other 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.

Reporting by Kate Kelland. Editing by Paul Casciato

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