Music may be as powerful as drugs in calming patients before they undergo surgery, new research suggests.
It worked just as well as a tranquilizer before patients received a peripheral nerve block prior to their procedure, the researchers said. Peripheral nerve block numbs a specific area of the body where surgery is being done.
Many patients are anxious before surgery and have increased levels of stress hormones, which can affect recovery after surgery. Patients are often given benzodiazepine drugs, such as midazolam, to calm them before surgery.
Unfortunately, the drugs can cause side effects such as breathing problems, blood flow disturbances, and even increased levels of agitation and hostility, the researchers noted.
In this study, Dr. Veena Graff, from anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues compared the effectiveness of music and midazolam (Versed) in soothing patients before they received a peripheral nerve block.
The study included 157 adult patients who received either 1 or 2 milligrams of midazolam (80 patients) injected three minutes before the use of a peripheral nerve block, or listened to Marconi Union's Weightless series of music on noise-canceling headphones (77 patients) for the same length of time. The music track is believed to be one of the world's most relaxing songs.
Reductions in anxiety were similar in both groups of patients, but patients in the music group were less satisfied than those in the midazolam group. This may be because the patients were not able to select their own music, the study authors suggested.
Both patients and doctors said it was harder to communicate when music was used to calm nerves, likely due to the headphones, according to the report published online July 18 in the journal Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine.
Overall, the findings show that music may be offered as an alternative to midazolam before patients receive a regional nerve block, the study authors suggested in a journal news release.
"However, further studies are warranted to evaluate whether or not the type of music, as well as how it is delivered, offers advantages over midazolam that outweigh the increase in communication barriers," Graff and colleagues concluded.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on midazolam.