If you ever find yourself in a position where you must perform chest compressions, sing “La Macarena” to yourself — it might just save the patient’s life.

CPR training.

CPR training.
Image credits Wikimedia user Rama.

New research presented at the Euroanaesthesia event in Copenhagen, Denmark shows that the old-time earworm can actually improve the quality of chest compressions during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). That is, as long as those administering CPR use the song as a mental guide to time their actions.

Eeeey, chest compressions

Knowing how to perform CPR is one of those little things that could make a huge difference at the right time. However, most of those who do know how to administer compressions and resuscitate those in need aren’t very good at timing it right — because they luckily don’t get a lot of opportunities to practice.

But it is undeniable that this lack of experience does negatively impact the effectiveness of said CPR. That’s why Professor Enrique Carrero Cardenal and colleagues at the University of Barcelona, Hospital Clinic Barcelona, and Universitat Autònoma Barcelona, Spain tried to devise a simple, easily- and widely-accessible method to help the general public improve the effectiveness of the compressions they administer.

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What they recommend is to have a metronome on hand. Failing that, you can just administer the compressions to the rhythm of “La Macarena”. Both the app and the song provide a regular rhythm to help time the compressions. The team’s study focused on measuring how effective each was at improving the quality of chest compressions.

For the study, the team selected 164 medical students from the University of Barcelona and asked them to perform continuous chest compressions on a manikin for 2 minutes. Subjects either had to perform the compressions without any guidance (the control group), with help from a smartphone metronome app (the App group) or by using the song as a mental metronome (the Macarena group). The app generated a noise at 103 beats per minute (bpm), corresponding to each compression that a participant had to perform. Those in the Macarena group first had to prove that they knew the song before the trials.

The team recorded demographic data, information about the quality of each participant’s compressions, and conducted a satisfaction survey among their participants after the trial.

They report that participants in the App and Macarena groups had a much higher average percentage of compressions occurring in the 100-120 bpm range (91% and 74% respectively) compared to those in the control group (24%). While no group achieved the required compression depth (5 cm / 2 in), those in the App group had the best overall quality scores despite the fact that it took them the most to start performing the first compression (they needed to fiddle with their phone to get the app going).

According to the results of the participants’ survey, the app was the most useful method to help them perform CPR. However, if you don’t happen to have a metronome app installed, or rapid intervention is critical, the La Macarena method is a suitable replacement. It is also significantly better than performing CPR without any kind of guidance.

“Both the app and using mental memory aid ‘La Macarena’ improved the quality of chest compressions by increasing the proportion of adequate rate but not the depth of compressions,” the study concludes.

“The metronome app was more effective but with a significant onset delay.”

The paper “Timing resuscitation compressions using the song ‘La Macarena’ or using a smartphone app improve compression quality” has been presented at this year’s Euroanaesthesia congress in Copenhagen, Denmark