Music Appears to Reduce Postoperative Pain, Anxiety

Published in NEJM Journal August 13, 2015

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by Jaye Elizabeth Hefner, MD

Patients who listen to music around the time of surgery — even while under general anesthesia — reap substantial postoperative benefits, a Lancet systematic review finds.

The analysis included over 70 randomized trials in which music before, during, or after surgery was compared with usual care or non-pharmacologic interventions (e.g., white noise, bed rest). Roughly 20 to 460 adults were enrolled in each trial.

Patients who listened to music had less postoperative pain, analgesia use, and anxiety than did controls. Pain reductions corresponded to 23 mm on a 100-mm scale, and anxiety reductions corresponded to 6.4 units on a 20–80-unit scale. The greatest benefits were seen when music was played preoperatively.

Music was not associated with length of stay, however.

A commentator concludes, "Although many research questions remain, this should not inhibit implementation of a sensible choice for patients now. For my next surgery, I will bring some Mozart and a copy of this systematic review."

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Eamonn Vitt