Music Therapy in Surgery

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Music is a universal language. It is almost impossible to find any person who doesn’t have a strong connection to some variation of music. In our modern era, music can be attributed to many facets of healing, including within the surgical rooms. Music, be it preoperative, perioperative, postoperative, or even just an outlet away from stress for an individual, can improve the quality of life in a multitude of ways. The possible correlation between music and medicine isn’t fully understood but music has been found to contribute to many health benefits. Palmer states that music can be found to reduce stress, anxiety, and pain in both patients and surgeons during the course of an operation or surgical procedure (4). Music can improve medical outcomes, perioperative procedures, and the quality of life in a variety of ways and should be further advocated for and supported in our medical and science communities.

Although music can be argued as a distraction or hazard in the operating room, it has shown to generate positive increases in speed and accuracy for surgeons and surgical personnel (Moris 721). The study on the role of music in an operating room gives a better sense of just how powerful the healing of music can be. Not only can music be good for individuals in the medical field to focus, it can also be a vast contributor to the healing process of patients. The intention of this paper is to show the magnitude, power, and encouraging impact music can have not just in the healing process of patients, but also the day to day routines of medical staff around the world.

According to researchers, music has shown to effectively influence a positive effect on the surgical staff during perioperative procedures (Palmer 34). Music was first introduced into operating rooms in 1914 to soothe patients and relieve their anxiety. Music became more commonly used in the operating room in the 1930s, still with the purpose to help benefit and heal the patients. Today, patients are placed under an anesthetic before they enter the operating room and music is usually played for the benefit of the operating staff. Patients do however, commonly listen to music both preoperative and postoperatively as a therapeutic and calming tool. Modern operating rooms are now often equipped with MP3 players, music stations, and portable speakers and are regularly used during operations.

According to Weldon 63% of the medical personnel listen to music on a regular basis during the perioperative procedure, with classical music being the most requested at 58% (2771). According to this study, researchers found that the nurses were more likely to advocate listening to music and the inclination was found to be higher among female staff. The desired volume was often requested to be lower with a correlation to an increase in age but still preferred for concentration benefits. Nearly 80% of the participants stated that music in the operating room makes them calmer and more efficient (2772).

While we understand that music benefits doctors, it also has the potential to benefit patients as well. A recent 2017 study found that patients undergoing spinal surgery experienced significant decreases in heart rate, blood pressure, and overall stress following surgery while listening to music in the recovery room (Lee 10). This study and other research suggests that music can maintain a healthier healing environment after surgery and produce many physically health related benefits.

Studies by Weldon have shown that playing music in the operating room while performing surgery can benefit surgical staff by decreasing their levels of stress and enhancing their overall performance (2774). However, other investigations have shown that playing music in the operating room during perioperative procedures can hinder a surgical staffs concentration and impair a surgeons performance as well as their ability to manage stressful situations (Phan 2). Phan explains that because each member of staff is effected differently, music can be an obstruction to the surgical teams ability to agree or communicate and can lead to serious concerns with safety and liability.

When surgeons request nurses for instruments or supplies they often had to be repeated and there was evidence of frustration or tension within some of the teams. The need to ask for requests to be repeated led to an increase in an operation’s length by over a minute. Phan suggests that the use of music within the operating room should be strictly monitored and that a surgical safety checklist should include agreed upon volume restrictions before surgical procedures. Music in the operating room can have positive effects or negative side effects and should be practiced similarly to a drug, in appropriate doses. There might be times when no music is best and there might be times when music can help to improve communication between the individual members of the operating team.

It is recommended that surgical teams hold detailed discussions about playing music during an operation, with particular emphasis on taking into consideration the views of nurses and other staff members. This can be used to make sure that everyone has introduced themselves and all are involved with clear details and a plan for the operation. Perhaps, introducing a standard check and agreement prior to surgery to voice concerns about music and for teams to ensure that music remains at a volume low enough will create a comfortable working environment for staff who may be more sensitive to noise and/or prefer less noise. It is also important to remember the use of music, although very beneficial in performance and time in the operating rooms, is dependent on time, place, and surgical staff preferences.

Music therapy is an low-cost and non-invasive technique that can significantly enhance patient satisfaction and health and decrease patients operative stress, pain, and awareness. Surgery and anesthesia are known to be generally unpleasant experiences for patients and can be a serious source of stress and anxiety that can undo the desired reduced anxiety and pain. The several experimental studies discussed have evaluated the effects of music therapy in improving the quality of perioperative care.

The significance of music therapy is still a generally lesser known practice within a surgical procedure. Some surgeons believe music reduces stress and operative time, while others think music is a distraction and should be avoided. However, many operating rooms now routinely include a soundtrack to go with surgery. Music played during surgeries shows patients that were unconscious seemed to be experiencing associated pain relief before, during, and after surgery as well as reduced anxiety (Palmer 34). Future work and studies should be done more to determine the lasting effects of music used in the operating room. Music as a therapeutic tool before and after surgery should be continued within operating rooms and practices. Beyond a mental therapy, it is clear music has significant potential beyond what we currently recognize.

While there is an understanding that music has the power to heal emotionally, the physical benefits both within and beyond the surgical room are still unclear and should be further studied. Music therapy is still a rarely practiced tool used within the perioperative environment and more recently used before and after procedures, but research does suggest a possibly positive influence on both the efficacy in surgeons performance and also patients healing processes. With the proper research and restrictions, music in the operating rooms has the potential to improve many parts of a surgical process. If music has the ability to relieve stress and in turn expedite the healing process of an individual, the understanding of music therapy is underrepresented and needs to be considered far more among the medical and science communities.


Cite this paper

Music Therapy in Surgery. (2021, Dec 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/music-therapy-in-surgery/



Does music therapy helps heal?
Yes, music therapy can help heal by providing a distraction from pain and promoting relaxation.
How is music used in hospitals?
Music is used in hospitals to help patients feel calm and relaxed. It can also be used to help patients fall asleep or stay awake.
What music is used in music therapy?
Music therapy is the use of music to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of a person. The music used in music therapy can be from any genre, and is often chosen based on the needs of the individual.
Why is music used in medical recovery?
Hearing music is the process of detecting soundwaves and converting them into electrical signals that the brain can interpret. Listening to music is the act of attending to these signals and making meaning from them.
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