Soothing music calms pre-surgery patients – without the side effects of drugs, study says

Patients who listened to a relaxing song were shown to have similar levels of anxiety to those treated with a sedative

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Friday 19 July 2019 06:35 BST
Three minutes of music were shown to reduce pre-op anxiety
Three minutes of music were shown to reduce pre-op anxiety

Playing soothing music to patients before anaesthetising them for surgery could calm their nerves as much as conventional anxiety drugs – but with fewer side effects, a study suggests.

US researchers found that patients who listened to a relaxing song on noise-cancelling headphones had similar levels of anxiety to those treated with the sedative midazolam.

This suggests that music could provide a drugless alternative to treat pre-surgery anxiety, a common issue that can cause stress and negatively impact recovery.

It could also minimise the risk of side effects associated with midazolam and other common benzodiazepine drugs, which can affect breathing, blood flow and potentially even lead to agitation. Patients need to be closely monitored by anaesthetists after taking the drugs.

The University of Pennsylvania researchers selected 157 adults and asked half to listen to an instrumental track – “Weightless” by Marconi Union - three minutes before they were given a nerve block anaesthetic.

The other half received a 1-2mg dose of midazolam, before the nerve block was applied as normal (the sedative hits peak effectiveness at three minutes).

While the study, published in the journal Regional Anaesthesia & Pain Medicine, did reveal a greater anxiety reduction in the midazolam group, the difference was not statistically significant.

The researchers said that allowing patients to listen to the music for longer, or choose their own music, could improve the results.

“Music medicine offers an alternative to intravenous midazolam prior to single-injection peripheral nerve block procedures,” the authors said, adding that further research was needed to validate the findings.

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