A millennium dance-floor hit, Disco Science, is better than Achy Breaky Heart for helping victims of heart attacks but neither meets the grade for inclusion in first-aid guidelines, according to an unusual study.
Rhythmic music has been long been suggested as a tool for medical workers learning cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Healthcare workers in Britain were once advised to recall a quirky 1950s children's song, Nellie the Elephant, in order to get the right rhythm of chest compression.
Rather more macabrely, their counterparts in the United States experimented at one point with the Bee Gees' 1970s pointy-finger disco hit, Stayin Alive.
Correct compression rate
The songs did inspire first-aiders to get the right rate of chest compressions.
But they failed to help them achieve the correct depth of compression, i.e. five to six centimetres.
Keen to explore the link between backbeat and heartbeat, researchers carried out an experiment on the sidelines of a conference of Australian paramedics.
Seventy-four volunteers delivered CPR to a dummy as they listened on headphones either to Billy Ray Cyrus' 1992 country hit Achy Breaky Heart or Mirwais Disco Science, or heard no music at all.
Disco Science tops
Disco Science came out tops in terms of meeting the compression rate.
82% of those who listened to it got within the optimal range of 100 to 120 compressions per minute, compared to 64% for Achy Breaky Heart, and 65% for no music at all.
Even so, regardless of the music, a third of compressions were still too shallow and more than 50% of the volunteers adopted the wrong hand positions.
Given the combined importance of correct depth and rate of compression, the researchers are unconvinced that music is the best guide for CPR, and suggests that a metronome or some other audio gadget may be better.
The study, headed by Malcolm Woollard, a professor of health and life sciences at Britain's Coventry University, appears in the specialist publication Emergency Medicine Journal.
(Sapa, November 2011)