By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
According to research playing music to patients undergoing surgery reduces their anxiety and could improve healing. Easy listening music and chart classics can lessen fear among patients who stay awake during surgery but require a local anesthetic say researchers.
Experts at the Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford analyzed data from 96 patients split into two groups. The first group was played music during their surgery while the second were operated on in the usual operating theatre environment. Both groups included patients undergoing plastic surgery for trauma to their bodies as well as those having planned NHS reconstructive surgery. Listening to the radio also helped. Half of the patients who were played music - broadcast by a radio station or from a selection of tunes on a CD chosen by the surgical staff.
Anxiety levels were measured through the patients' respiratory rate and asking them to rate their anxiety using an established scale. Both measurements were first taken when the patient was on the operating table (just before the surgical procedure started) and, secondly, at the end of the operation (while the patient was still on the operating table).
The research, published in the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, showed that the group played music scored around 29% less on anxiety levels and had an average of 11 breaths per minute versus 13 breaths per minute in the other group. This is the first study to examine the effect of music on patients undergoing both planned and emergency surgical operations whilst awake. Previous studies have found classical music may have the greatest health benefits for patients, especially the works of Bach, Mozart and Italian composers.