Soothing sounds: Music reduces patient anxiety, pain during surgery

Perioperative music reduced anxiety and pain in patients undergoing surgery, according to a study published in the British Journal of Surgery.

Using music to calm patients and distract them during surgery could yield improved outcomes and satisfaction, but adoption of this alternate route of pain management is lacking. In this study, researchers examined several databases to identify music’s impact on adult surgical patients in anxiety and pain levels.


“As the use of analgesics has inherent side‐effects, music interventions have been suggested as a way to reduce perioperative anxiety and postoperative pain,” wrote first author A. Kuhlmann and colleagues. “Despite a large number of studies, perioperative music interventions are still not used widely. Research on music interventions in healthcare often identifies heterogeneity in study populations and lack of negative studies possibly owing to publication bias. These factors may be the reason why perioperative music interventions are not often applied in clinical practice.”

Researchers examined 11 electronic databases to identify publications from 1980 to 2016 that studied the effect of music interventions on anxiety and pain during invasive surgery. Overall, 81 trials with 7,385 patients were included in the review. Results showed music intervention on adults undergoing invasive surgery had reduced rates of anxiety, on a 100-point visual scale, by 21 points and pain by 10 points.   

“This meta‐analysis found a statistically significant decrease in both anxiety and pain in adults receiving music interventions before, during or after surgery,” concluded Kuhlmann and colleagues. “The effect on anxiety seemed largest when the music intervention was offered before operation; however, music interventions offered during and after surgery also significantly reduced anxiety. Postoperative music interventions were most likely to reduce pain; a significant pain‐reducing effect of preoperative music was also seen in the data‐driven multivariable regression analysis. As preoperative anxiety is associated with postoperative pain, pain reduction noted after preoperative music interventions might be the result of decreased anxiety.”