Chicago, Illinois – New advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA) now recommends heavy metal as the first line treatment of symptomatic bradycardia.
Symptomatic Bradycardia. Bradycardia is defined as a heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute. While any heart rate less than 60 beats per minute is considered bradycardia, not every individual with bradycardia is symptomatic or having a pathological event.
“Last year, a pivotal study found that Megadeth’s Rust in Peace was superior to atropine in patients with hemodynamically unstable bradycardia, and that totally changed the game,” said Dr. Ian Fraser Kilmister, a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, whose heart rate is 130 beats per minutes just thinking about Testament’s Dark Roots of Earth. “As a result, research exploded, spurred on by medical metalheads.”
Subsequent studies found that numerous albums in the heavy metal genre – Slayer’s Reign in Blood, Metallica’s Master of Puppets, and Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, for example – were superior to atropine, dopamine, and epinephrine, respectively, and, as Kilmister put it, “way, way more badass.”
The therapeutic benefits of music is not a new idea. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear hospital beds playing classical music in order to maintain a calm environment and reduce anxiety for hospitalized patients.
“The brilliance of these studies is they took it to the other extreme,” explained DMH intensivist Dr. Stephen Percy Harris, who prefers using Napalm Death’s Scum at bedside. “What if a patient needs a jolt to the system? Blast some of Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man‘ and I guarantee your patient’s heart rate will be back up well above 60, I promise you.”
The new guidelines for symptomatic bradycardia do not delineate any specific songs or albums, just that they fall into the heavy metal genre. It leaves the choice up to the health care professional, trusting their clinical judgment and, more importantly, their taste in music.
“I really appreciate that about the guidelines, I really do,” said Dr. Angela Nathalie Gossow, another UIC hospitalist who enjoys the irony of using Metallica’s “Creeping Death” for resuscitative purposes. “I might want to pick some Swedish death metal like Amon Amarth’s Surtur Rising, but someone else might feel like Mastodon or Meshuggah is the right call, and that’s totally cool too.”
The AHA wants to remind health care professionals that patients receiving heavy metal need to be closely monitored in case the patient overcompensates and develops ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. \m/