Who would have thought that medical professionals and musicians may use the same tool to perform their work-related tasks? A group of researchers from Florida did, and they have evidence-based data to prove it.

In a study, experts found that using metronomes, which are commonly used by musicians to maintain a steady beat, can enhance the efficiency of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and thus improve survival rates.

CPR is performed by a rescuer by kneeling down at the side of the patient to do compressions. To do this, the rescuer presses both hands on top of the chest and pushes down approximately two inches deep to force blood through the body before releasing and repeating the cycle.

The ideal number of compressions is between 100-120 per minute, which, according to Dianne Atkins from the American Heart Association, is "fairly fast," and difficult to carry through without a guide. She added that too rapid or too slow chest compressions reduce CPR's effectiveness.

The metronome comes into the picture because it is said to provide that necessary guidance as chest compressions are rendered. Every click of the metronome signals a rescuer to do a chest compression and helps in maintaining a consistent beat.

At the start of the research, the authors aimed to find out if using metronomes may boost the chest compression rate and depth during CPR on a pediatric model.

The study subjects, which were comprised of 155 pediatric residents, fellows, nurses and medical students, were randomly instructed to do chest compressions on a pediatric mannequin twice - first with the aid of an audible metronome and the second time, without the help of the device. The participants particularly performed chest compressions for two cycles, with each cycle lasting for two minutes. A 15-minute break was given in between the two rounds.

The findings of the study showed that there was a notable improvement in the mean percentage of compressions that were performed within a sufficient rate when a metronome was used. In terms of depth, however, the researchers were not able to observe any significant discrepancies.

"Our results illustrate how metronome guidance improves the delivery of chest compressions at an adequate rate but has no effect on the depth," the authors wrote (PDF).

The use of the metronome had a bigger impact on medical students, fellows and pediatric residents, and none on nurses.

The metronome is not commonly found in emergency tool bags of rescuers or in medical facilities. With the results of this new research, Atkins is hoping to modify such setup.

For now, Atkins said that metronomes can be downloaded as apps on mobile handsets. She instructed to set it to 100 beats per minute or quarter notes as it is usually made to aid musicians.

Atkins closed by saying that downloading a metronome app, whether one is a medical professional or not, is not a bad idea and that it can help in CPR training just in case.

"These data are encouraging and support the need for future clinical trials assessing the effect of a metronome in delivering compressions at an adequate rate and depth in real-life pediatric cardiac arrest cases," the researchers closed.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday, Oct. 12.

Photo: James Lee | Flickr

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