Disco for CPR

Researchers claim that the Bee Gees 1977 tune "Stayin' Alive" is a great track to pace yourself when doing CPR. The song's tempo is 103 beats per minute, very close to the 100 chest compressions per minute recommended by the American Heart Association. For the last two years, the AHA has been suggesting trainees practice to the song. University of Illinois physician David Matlock conducted a study on the use of the song in CPR training and will present his results at the American College of Emergency Physicians conference in a couple weeks. Seems like the AHA should hire a DJ to make a lifesaver mix. From the AP:
Dr. Matthew Gilbert, a 28-year-old medical resident, was among participants in the University of Illinois study this past spring. Since then, he said, he has revived real patients by keeping the song in his head while doing CPR.

Gilbert said he was surprised the song worked as well as it did.

"I was a little worried because I've been told that I have a complete lack of rhythm," he said. Also, Gilbert said he's not really a disco fan.

He does happen to like a certain Queen song with a similar beat.

"I heard a rumor that 'Another One Bites the Dust' works also, but it didn't seem quite as appropriate," Gilbert said.
"Stayin' Alive" has near-perfect rhythm to help jump-start heart


  1. “I heard a rumor that ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ works also, but it didn’t seem quite as appropriate,” Gilbert said.

    Considering that CPR only has something like a 30% success rate… (…which is still far better than 0% if you didn’t provide CPR.)

  2. 30%? Wow. I wonder if my own rate (0%) has anything to do with the fact that I use “Sensitivity” from Once Upon a Mattress for mine?

  3. We were taught to use Nellie the Elephant – not only the right speed, but two rounds of the chorus gives you the recommended interval to do two breaths before returning to chest compressions.

  4. that’s pretty funny actually. I can’t remember enough about CPR to know if it actually works. I really should get recertified…

  5. Oh dear, it must only be minutes before the music industry sues every person who has been saved with CPR for copyright infringement.

  6. I’m sure there’s a joke in “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” but I can’t quite find it.

    No? “Stairway to Heaven”? “My Iron Lung”?

  7. I too was taught to use “Nellie the elephant” and Another one bites the dust” on my first aid course.

  8. On average, only 5%-10% of people who receive CPR survive. Furthermore,

    Studies have shown the importance of immediate CPR followed by defibrillation within 3–5 minutes of sudden VF cardiac arrest improve survival. In cities such as Seattle where CPR training is widespread and defibrillation by EMS personnel follows quickly, the survival rate is about 30 percent. In cities such as New York City, without those advantages, the survival rate is only 1-2 percent.

    Still, it’s nowhere near like the portrayal in television and movies where CPR almost always works. The reality is quite the opposite.

  9. @#2
    Another One Bites the Dust is more like 110 – 115 beats per minute. Too fast for CPR.

    A lot of commercial hip-hop hits are close to 100bpm. Also, Talking Heads Burnin’ Down the House is about 102, Tom Tom Club’s Genius of Love is 103, Falco, Rock Me Amadeus is right around 100 too. These are from memory, so I’m sure I’m off a little, but all would be at least as good as Stayin’ Alive.

  10. You know, they aren’t teaching the “blow” part any more. It’s all chest compressions now. Apparently you get enough air from the compressions not to need someone blowing in your mouth, or at least not as much as you need the chest compressions the person would be skipping to give you the KOL.

    Spoils a couple of good scenes in some excellent TV shows. But since it no longer involves the yucky part (people who need CPR aren’t always beautiful young members of your preferred gender, and their mouths can be bloody, filled with vomit, or worse), people may be less reluctant to get in there and start it right off. Could save lives.

  11. No, I meant their mouths could have worse things in them than blood or vomit. Splintered teeth are worse than blood, but not as bad as vomit IMO. I could go into gross gory detail, but while that might help sell my horror fiction (which isn’t, so far, for sale), it’s deeply off topic.

    1. I used to work with a guy who did CPR on someone whose head was run over by a parade float. He spit out a mouthful of tooth fragments after the mouth-to-mouth.

  12. I used to work with a guy who did CPR on someone whose head was run over by a parade float. He spit out a mouthful of tooth fragments after the mouth-to-mouth.

    their mouths can be bloody, filled with vomit, or worse)

    Um, doesn’t this fall under the A of ABC? (Airway, is it clear? …before Breath and Compression.) I wouldn’t want to be blowing broken teeth down his trachea.

    You know, they aren’t teaching the “blow” part any more. It’s all chest compressions now.

    I’d heard that they’d changed it from 15 compressions per breath to 30 compressions per breath, but didn’t know they got rid of breathing completely. Interesting.

    1. Breath isn’t recommended anymore, but that will take twenty years to trickle down to common knowledge. The pumping action of chest compressions works pretty effectively to force air in and out of the lungs.

  13. Anyone else start hearing Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight if you play the bassline for “Another One Bites the Dust” in your head? Is that safe for CPR?

  14. The comments about rescue breathing being de-emphasized are incomplete: true for adults, not for kids.

    Overgeneralized: adult hearts stop because of circulation problems, child hearts stop because of breathing problems.

    Thus the adult CPR protocol emphasizes maintaining circulation, child CPR protocol emphasizes rescue breathing (and circulation).

    Also, IIRC, statistics for revival are *much* better if your heart stopped as a result of some accident, particularly electrocution.

  15. I heard a rumor that ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ works also, but it didn’t seem quite as appropriate

    I love a doctor with a sense of humor.

  16. The study for Compression-only resuscitation done by me had a survival rate around three times higher than normal CPR, studies proved so effective that they released new guidelines about 2 years early.

    I can’t wait for the “Stayin’ Alive” bit to be included in a Scrubs episode.

  17. We got the Beatles “Ticket to Ride” at my last Senior First Aid refresher course. I used to like that tune, but not any more.

    “My Baby don’t care….My Baby don’t care…”

  18. I went to CPR training just last month and we definitely had Staying Alive playing while we practiced. It was odd at first but it really was helpful to keep the pace!

  19. My pick would be “Back to Life” the 90’s mid-tempo club hit by Soul II Soul which was 92 bpm on the album but the 12″ was 98 bpm and usually sounded more lively when pitched up a bit, so…

  20. @27, I believe Rapper’s Delight plays around 111 BPM, which, echoing what #17 said Re: Another One Bites the Dust, is rather on the fast side.

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