A major new study has found that listening to music before, during or after surgery can significantly reduce pain and anxiety among patients.
According to the findings, even listening to music while under general anaesthetic appeared to reduce the level of pain experienced by patients.
UK researchers analysed data from 72 trials involving almost 7,000 patients. All of the trials looked at the impact of music on post-operative surgery patients compared with standard care or other non-drug interventions, such as massage.
The study found that patients who were exposed to music were significantly less anxious after their surgery, and tended to be more satisfied.
These patients also reported much lower levels of pain and required less pain medication compared with patients who had not been exposed to music.
The researchers noted that the biggest benefits appeared to be found in patients who listened to music before their surgery, rather than during or after.
Meanwhile pain levels tended to be slightly lower among patients who got to choose their own music.
The researchers were also surprised to find that pain levels were even reduced among those who had been under general anaesthetic while listening to music, although the benefits were greater among those who were conscious.
Music did not, however, reduce the length of stay in hospital.
According to the study's lead author, Dr Catherine Meads of Brunel University, music is ‘a non-invasive, safe, cheap intervention that should be available to everyone undergoing surgery'.
"Patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximise the benefit to their wellbeing. However, care needs to be taken that music does not interfere with the medical team's communication," she commented.
A recent study published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found that the use of background music in operating theatres can sometimes impair communication between staff (see more here).
These latest findings about the benefits to patients are published in the medical journal, The Lancet. In an accompanying editorial, Dr Paul Glasziou of Bond University in Australia, pointed out that music is a ‘simply and cheap intervention', and a drug with similar effects ‘might generate substantial marketing'.