Playing music to patients when they go under the knife reduces their anxiety during surgery and could even aid their recovery, according to a new study.
Easy listening, chart and classical music can all have a calming effect on patients who are awake for surgery under local anaesthetic, the researchers found.
Surgeons from the plastic and reconstructive department at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, studied 96 elective and emergency patients, who were divided into two groups.
Half the patients were played music – broadcast by a radio station or from a selection of tunes on a CD chosen by the surgical staff – while the other half had their operation with no music.
The particpants had their breathing rates measured and following the surgery were asked to rate their feelings of anxiety on a scale.
The music ranged from easy listening, such as Frank Sinatra to classical music from Beethoven, Vivaldi and Bach as well as a selection of chart hits.
The study published in Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons, found that the anxiety levels of those who had listened to the music were a third lower than those who hadn’t.
They also had more relaxed breathing patterns during the surgery – an average of 11 breaths per minute compared to 13 breaths per minute in the non-music group.
Hazim Sadideen, a plastic surgical registrar who led the study, said: "Undergoing surgery can be a stressful experience for patients and finding ways of making them more comfortable should be our goal as clinicians.
"There are also good medical reasons - calmer patients may cope better with pain and recover quicker."
He added: “This small scale work is the first time an attempt has been made to measure the impact music has in this specific group of patients and hints at the need for bigger multi-centre research to establish whether this should become part of standard practice.”