Patient to surgeon: I hear a symphony
Operating rooms can be noisy, stressful places. For decades, doctors and nurses have turned to recorded music to mask the din and soothe nerves, and anxious patients being prepared for surgery have found solace in favorite melodies.
And there appear to be measurable medical benefits to music in the OR. Several studies have found that patients need less anesthesia when music is playing during surgery. But Zeev N. Kain, M.D., professor of anesthesiology, pediatrics and child psychiatry at the School of Medicine, wondered whether this phenomenon was due to music’s aesthetic qualities or merely its ability to drown out the racket in the operating room.
Kain and colleagues at Yale and the American University of Beirut designed a study in which patients undergoing minor urological surgery who could control the dosage of a sedative—they had received spinal anesthesia but were awake—listened through headphones to either music or white noise generated by a relaxation device. As reported this May in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia, the white noise blocked out the sounds of the operating room as effectively as music, but the patients who listened to music used significantly less sedative.