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Disco Tune Could Literally Keep You ‘Stayin’ Alive’

October 17, 2008

At 103 beats per minute, and a rhythm that will just get stuck in your head, the Bee Gees’ 1977 disco song “Stayin’ Alive” is the perfect solution to truly help keep people staying alive during CPR.

CPR can triple survival rates, but some people are hesitant to do it in part because they are unsure about the proper rhythm for chest compressions.

In a study headed by Dr. David Matlock of the University of Illinois medical school, 15 doctors and students maintained close to the ideal number of chest compressions doing CPR while listening to “Stayin’ Alive”.

Five weeks after practicing with the music playing, they were asked to perform CPR again on dummies by keeping the song in their minds. The average number of compressions the first time was 109 per minute and the second time it was 113. That’s more than recommended, but Matlock said that when it comes to trying to revive a stopped heart, a few extra compressions per minute is better than too few.

“The theme ‘Stayin’ Alive’ is very appropriate for the situation,” Matlock said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “Everybody’s heard it at some point in their life. People know the song and can keep it in their head.”

“It drove them and motivated them to keep up the rate, which is the most important thing,” he said.

It turns out that the American Heart Association has been using the song as a training tip for CPR instructions for about two years.  They learned of it from a physician “who sort of hit upon this as a training tool,” said association spokesman Dr. Vinay Nadkarni of the University of Pennsylvania.

Matlock said he was not aware of any previous studies that tested the song.

Nadkarni said he has seen “Stayin’ Alive” work wonders in classes where students were having trouble keeping the right beat while practicing on mannequins. 

“I don’t know how the Bee Gees knew this,” Nadkarni said. “They probably didn’t. But they just hit upon this natural rhythm that was very catchy, very popular, that helps us do the right thing.”

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