Listening to music reduces pain after surgery

Scientific news

Patients who listen to music before, during or after surgery recover with less pain, less analgesics and less anxiety. These are the results of a large systematic review of 72 randomised controlled trials that was published in The Lancet.

In the studies, listening to music was compared with regular care, wearing headphones without music, listening to white noise and undisturbed bed rest before and after various treatments. Irrespective of the control group, the results were evident: people who listened to music during their hospital stay experienced less pain, used less analgesics, were less anxious and were more satisfied. The length of the hospital stay did not differ, however.

According to the researchers music was most effective when played before and least effective when played after the procedure. Even when under general anaesthetics, patients profited from listening to music, however not as much as without. Additionally, less pain was reported if patients were able to choose their own songs, although this difference was not significant.

The general conclusion is that music is a safe, non-invasive and cheap method to make recovery more pleasant. However, it is not yet routinely used during surgery. Author dr. Catherine Meads of the Brunel University, Uxbridge, UK, explains: “The lack of uptake is often down to the scepticism of professionals as to whether it genuinely works, and of course issues of budget and the integration into daily practice.”

Sources: The Lancet, BBC

MedZine writes about notable science twice a week.

By Saskia Höcker