Music can have a calming effect during stressful situations, including surgery, according to new data. A new study published in The Lancet concludes that patients given any form of music before, during, or after surgery experienced reduced anxiety and less pain during postoperative recovery
In the study, researchers pooled the results from a systematic review of the literature of randomized clinical trials of adult patients who underwent surgical procedures. In the trials, which included patients undergoing head and neck procedures, patients were randomized to receive music before, during, or after surgery or to receive the standard of care or other non-drug interventions (i.e., headphones with no music, white noise, or undisturbed bed rest). The resulting meta-analysis included 73 randomized clinical trials.
Using the standardized mean difference (SMD) to assess the efficacy of music in this setting, the meta-analysis showed that music reduced post-operative pain (SMD –0.77), anxiety (SMD –0.68), analgesia use (SMD –0.37), and increased patient satisfaction (SMD –1.09). No difference was found in the length of hospital stay (SMD –0.11).
The investigators found that the choice of music or timing of delivery had little impact on the outcomes, and that the effect of music was seen in patients even while under general anesthesia.
Robert T. Sataloff, MD, professor and chairman, department of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, said that while using music to ameliorate pain is not new, research over the past 20 years has provided a better understanding of the mechanisms of the effect of music on the brain.
“For example, emotional responses to music correlate with activity in the paralimbic regions of the brain, and the effects of music on neural substrates of the brain have been demonstrated convincingly,” he said.
“Unfortunately,” he added, “most of us have not even begun to explore the potential efficacy of music in clinical management.”
Elizabeth Ball, PhD, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, UK, a co-investigator of the study, said she and her colleagues hoped that these finding would be included in professional guidelines and recommendations.
“If this was a drug, it would receive considerable marketing,” she said.