Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Going under the knife? Make sure your iPod is charged!

Cooke, Marie, Wendy Chaboyer, Philip Schluter, and Maryanne Hiratos. “The Effect of Music on Preoperative Anxiety in Day Surgery.” Journal of Advanced Nursing 52 (2005): 47-55

This study was designed to determine whether day surgery patients who listen to music while waiting before surgery have lower levels of anxiety than those who do not. This was accomplished by assessing levels of anxiety before the patients listened to music and then again after listening. Their participants were randomly divided into three groups of 60 people each, the intervention, placebo, and control groups. The intervention group were allowed to choose the type of music they would listen to, the placebo group wore earphones without music being played, and the control group received only routine care. Results showed that those in the intervention group (who listened to music) showed considerably lower levels of anxiety than those from the other groups. The authors suggest that with the improvements in surgical techniques and anaesthetics there will be an increasing number of day surgeries, and that nursing staff will need faster options of helping patients with preoperative anxiety. Listening to music can be entirely self-driven by the patient.

I found this study to be particularly interesting and relevant as just last year I had to undergo a minor operative procedure under local anaesthetic. I had been quite nervous during the consultation when the surgery date was booked and was thus extremely nervous on the day of the actual surgery. I remember being in the waiting room beforehand with other patients waiting in various stages of anxiety, experiencing the tense atmosphere, and reaching into my bag for my iPod. I put on the headphones and some favourite music and managed to calm myself until it was time for the surgery. I am quite sure that the act of listening to music minimized my anxiety levels while waiting. My own experience agrees with the hypothesis of this particular study.

I would be curious to know if any of the research regarding anxiety and day surgery looks into the effect of listening to music during the surgery itself. During my surgery, the surgical staff in the operating room were playing some type of medieval chant. I have very clear memories of listening to the music and being very grateful for the opportunity to focus on music rather than what was occurring. I would imagine that the music was played more for the benefit of the surgeon, but it had the added result of helping me.

It is notable that the participants in this study were allowed to select their own type of music rather than the researchers using one type of music for everyone. I imagine that music’s anxiety reducing effects would be greatly affected if you strongly disliked the music being played. It was interesting that the authors of this article decided to use three groups in their research. The article pointed out that other studies of this subject area have only used two groups: the intervention group and the control group. This could potentially have some effect on the way that the nursing staff treat the patients and could affect the results. Having a placebo group obviously wearing earphones but without hearing any music was an intelligent way of removing this problem.

The authors of this article suggest that day surgery units should encourage patients to listen to their own music while waiting for surgery. Day surgery units send out informational materials to patients when the date of surgery is booked, it seems that a helpful idea would be to include information about the benefits of listening to music while waiting and suggest that patients bring something that they enjoy listening to.


Natasha Rollings said...

I find this study very interesting. It seems that so often, in the Western medical practice, there are simple measures that can be taken to relieve pain and stress. However, they are the methods commonly ignored. I imagine that were I to have to go into surgery, and be under only a local anaesthetic, I would like to have all the help I could get to relax!
Part of the process of surgery (or any medical procedure) that causes stress is the lack of control. You are putting your health, sometimes your life, into the hands of another person and there is nothing you can do. And if you are under a local anaesthesia, you even have to watch what's going on!
I think that giving the patient some sort of control over their own level of anxiety would be a wonderful idea. It would give a level of independence to the patient, and perhaps an added level of confidence. And it is clear, based on the findings of the study, that music does in fact help to reduce stress.

Renee Kruisselbrink said...

I think, as well, that listening to music would be helpful simply as a distraction, since it gives the patient something else to think about. I have heard of expectant mothers picking music to play while in labor, for the same reason.

Also, stress and anxiety would increase the patient's brain frequencies exponentially; playing relaxing music would help to balance and lower these frequencies.