Music found to improve surgery outcomes: Patients offered music during surgeries experienced reduced pain and anxiety

Urological surgeon consultant Bhaskar Somani says that offering music to patients during minor surgeries can significantly reduce pain and anxiety. Mr. Somani, a leading surgeon at the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, came to this conclusion after reviewing data on 1,900 patients across 15 international studies. These patients had had various outpatient procedures.

In his analysis, almost 90 percent of anxiety was reduced among patients who were allowed to listen to music during surgeries. Furthermore, overall satisfaction of the procedure was reported at 53 percent and patients were 40 percent more willing to repeat the operation. The compiled data also revealed that patients who listened to music had higher tolerance for shockwaves, a procedure used in many urological surgeries.

“A clear strength of music is its low cost, non-invasive nature and ease of delivery,” said Mr. Somani. “There is a very strong case for all patients to be offered the option of music as an additional therapy when undergoing procedures.”

Listening your way to health

Music may play a large role in the lessening of the current opioid epidemic. A 2015 study suggested that music was an inexpensive way to prevent patients from abusing pain relievers, especially following surgery. Dr. Liza Ball who co-wrote the research said that any genre of music helped patients tolerate pain better. Listening to any type of music before, during, and after surgery likewise reduced anxiety and lessened the need for painkillers. The effect was particularly evident when patients were placed under a general anesthetic. (Related: Music therapy helps reduce depression and increases self-esteem.)

Dr. Ball however noted that music did not affect the length of stay. Choice of music and the time it was delivered did not shorten or lengthen how long a person had to stay in a ward.  

Subsequent studies corroborate these findings. A study published in March of last year concluded that music therapy drastically decreased the pain felt by patients recovering from spinal surgery. The reduction was statistically significant compared to patients who received only standard postoperative care.

As explained by co-author of the study, Joanne Loewy, DA, “The degree of change in the music group is notable for having been achieved by non-pharmacologic means with little chance of adverse effects.”

The opioid crisis

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) estimates that in 2016 there were more opioid addiction-related deaths in the United States than there were breast cancer deaths. The number is expected to increase with each year.

Medical professionals are scrambling to find better alternatives. These include developing a “smart” opioid which activates only a specific protein in cells, thereby reducing the risk of tolerance and addiction, to treating opioid reliance with other drugs. These methods, however, seem like bandaid solutions to a bigger, more dangerous problem. Fighting drugs with drugs is not a viable long-term solution. The patients are only trading in one problem for another.

Doctors are now beginning to advocate a multifaceted approach to ease the opioid crisis. This involves developing stronger educational material on preventing and treating painkiller addiction. Alternative therapies, such as music introduction, are likewise being examined for their efficacy.

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