Listening to music before, during, or after a surgical procedure is beneficial to patients, can significantly reduce pain and anxiety, and decrease the need for pain medication, according to a comprehensive review of evidence.
A team of UK researchers from Brunel University and Queen Mary University of London analyzed data from 72 trials involving nearly 7000 patients. They found that patients were significantly less anxious after surgery, and reported significantly more satisfaction, after listening to music.
Patients also needed less pain medication and reported significantly less pain compared with those who had not listened to music. Surprisingly, even listening to music while under general anaesthetic reduced patients' levels of pain, although the effects were larger when patients were conscious.
Although listening to music at any time seemed effective, there was a trend for better outcomes if patients listened to music before surgery rather than during or after.
Give Me My Music
When patients selected their own music there was a slightly greater, but non-significant, reduction in pain and use of pain relief.
According to lead author Dr Catherine Meads from Brunel University:
“More than 51 million operations are performed every year in the USA and around 4.6 million in England. Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery. Patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximise the benefit to their wellbeing. However, care needs to be taken that music does not interfere with the medical team’s communication."
In a related commenttary, Dr Paul Glasziou from Bond University, Queensland, Australia says:
“Music is a simple and cheap intervention, which reduces transient discomforts for many patients undergoing surgery. A drug with similar effects might generate substantial marketing…The very high heterogeneity…of effects among trials in the accompanying study highlights a research opportunity–to identify how to maximise the effect."
Jenny Hole, Martin Hirsch, Elizabeth Ball, Catherine Meads. Music as an aid for postoperative recovery in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis The Lancet, 2015; DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60169-6