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Listening to music improves recovery from surgery

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Listening to music improves patients’ recovery from surgery and should be available to everyone who has an operation, suggests new UK research.

The study, published in respected medical journal The Lancet today, found music before, during or after surgery benefited patients, and could significantly reduce pain and anxiety and the need for pain control.

“Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery”

Catherine Meads

In the most comprehensive review of evidence on the topic to date, a team of researchers from Brunel University and Queen Mary University of London analysed findings from 72 randomised trials.

Involving a total of 7,000 patients, these compared the impact of music with standard care or other interventions that did not involve drugs.

The review found patients were significantly less anxious and apparently happier after surgery having listened to music.

They also reported less pain and needed less pain medication, compared to control groups.

Music at any time seemed to help, but the best results tended to be linked to listening to music before surgery.

When patients chose their own music there was a slightly greater reduction in pain and use of pain relief.

Even listening to music while under general anaesthetic apparently helped reduce pain levels, but the effects were greater if patients were conscious.

However, the review found listening to music did not reduce length of stay in hospital.

Lead author Dr Catherine Meads, from Brunel University, said the findings made a compelling case for more music in hospitals for the 4.4 million or so people having operations in England each year.

“Music is a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery,” she said.

“Patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximise the benefit to their wellbeing,” she said.

However, she also sounded a note of caution. “Care needs to be taken that music does not interfere with the medical team’s communication,” she added.

Other studies have suggested listening to music could help clinical staff during surgical procedures such as helping them relax.

However, the review said music could hamper communication if doctors or nurses needed to talk to a patient during an operation when they were awake while headphones used by a patients could physically get in the way.

“Some medical teams might want to implement intra-operative music, whereas other teams might prefer the patient to listen to their own electronic musical device before the procedure or as soon as they arrive back onto the ward,” stated the authors in their study paper.

Patients could be encouraged to listen to music via information leaflets and hospital guidelines, they concluded.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I think most patients have some sort of portable music nowadays so what's the big deal? 'Twas ever thus.

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