What you never knew about music – in the operating room

August 16, 2013
As the saying goes, “…music has charms to soothe the savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak…” but it also can soothe the patient and surgical team in a busy operating room. At Providence Medford Medical Center, the surgical services staff encourages patients to choose the type of music they prefer to “fall asleep to” as they undergo anesthesia for a particular procedure.

Music helps surgeons to focus and has a calming effect on physicians and patients alike. “Music brings the tension level down,” said Aaron Partsafas, M.D., vascular surgeon and medical director for Providence Medical Group-Vascular and General Surgery. “It may even stimulate the creative brain.”

Everyone on the surgical team generally has to agree on the music, when it will be played and at what volume. “It’s a team decision,” Dr. Partsafas said. If one person prefers Bach and another Jay-Z, that could create some tension. But the surgical teams at Providence Medford Medical Center have had no problems coming to a consensus, according to Donna Rudy, director of Providence Medford surgical services. The musical choice in many ways fits the procedure being done. 
“For a delicate operation, heavy metal has no place,” Rudy said. “Music creates a healing environment for the patient, surgeon and the surgical team.”

Sometimes patients request certain tunes as they enter the operating room and before the general anesthetic takes over. “Those requests are always honored,” Dr. Partsafas said. “I’ve heard a variety of requests, from easy listening to jazz.”
According to studies at Mayo Clinic and other health care systems, listening to music helps patients relax and feel less tense, it helps decrease pain, improve patients’ moods and promote better sleep. Research on the effectiveness of music therapy dates back to the 1920s, when a study reported individuals’ blood pressure dropped when listening to music. It may also have a positive effect on pain, anxiety and tension, according to researchers at Oxford University.