Music can reduce pain and anxiety for surgery patients

A new study has found that listening to music before, during and after an operation can help to reduce pain and anxiety, even if it did not reduce the length of hospital stays.

Researchers at Queen Mary University reviewed 73 trials, involving about 7,000 patients. They compared patients who listened to ‘soothing’ music with others who listened to white noise, those who wore headphones with no music playing, patients who had routine care, and those who had  undisturbed bed rest.

The results, published in The Lancet, showed that patients who had listened to music were in less pain, were less anxious and needed less pain relief after surgery.

The researchers were surprised to discover that music had a beneficial effect even when the patient was under anaesthetic.

music / surgery

Dr Catherine Meads, the lead author of the research paper, has experienced the benefits of music herself, having found that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album helped to soothe her pain while recovering from hip surgery earlier this year.

She said: ‘Music is a non-invasive, safe and inexpensive intervention that can be delivered easily and successfully.’ She went on to recommend that it should be ‘available to everyone having surgery’.

In a statement on Brunel University’s website, Meads wrote: ‘Currently music is not used routinely during surgery to help patients in their post-operative recovery. The lack of uptake is often down to the scepticism of professionals as to whether it genuinely works, and of course issues of budget and the integration into daily practice. We hope this study will now shift misperceptions and highlight the positive impact music can have.’

Co-author Dr Martin Hirsch said: ‘We have known since the time of Florence Nightingale that listening to music has a positive impact on patients during surgery, by making them feel calmer and reducing pain. However, it’s taken pulling together all the small studies on this subject into one robust meta-analysis to really prove it works.’

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘This is very interesting research. We hope doctors consider the findings closely, because we want patients to have the best possible experience and recovery possible when they undergo surgery.’

The researchers hope that hospitals will advise patients to bring music devices into hospital with them.


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