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When Music Meets Medicine


Music, a universal language transcending all barriers;

Medicine, the study and practice of treatment for illness or injury.

These two seemingly unrelated fields are more intertwined than you might think. Although the surgeon’s playlist probably isn’t the focus of one lying on the operating table, music, often played in operating theaters, is known to have positive effects on both the surgeons and the patients.


According to a report published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), music (mostly classical) is played in the operating room 62-72% of the time. In 18 international studies, researchers found classical music played at a low to medium volume can increase both accuracy and speed of a surgery, as well as significantly distract and calm patients down.

  • Staff:

  • Cooperation between staff ↑

  • Anxiety and stress levels ↓

  • Efficiency ↑

  • Surgeons' task focus ↑

  • Patients:

  • Painkillers ↓

  • Anesthetic ↓

  • Surgery:

  • Operative time ↓


2009, 372 patients:

  • Reducing anxiety before anesthesia:

  • Relaxing melodies with tempo of 60-80 beats per minute > Standard medicinal drugs

  • Positive effect is most likely maintained after surgery

2012, Pain Research Center at the University of Utah:

  • Pain levels ↓ 17%

  • Actively focused on the playing music while receiving mild electric shocks (treatment)

  • Singapore: live music therapy helped relieve palliative care patients from the pain [more on “Music Therapy” can be found in one of our previous posts]

2019, International Journal of Surgery:

  • Doctors’ performance ↑ 11% while listening to Mozart / Bach

The Mozart Effect

  • “Is debated as a momentary positive effect of cognitive improvement on the surgical performance in forms of decreased anxiety and stress, increased speed and accuracy, as well as improved acquisition of technical skills of novice surgeons”

  • Cognitive function and mood of listeners ↑

  • Autonomic nervous system reactivity ↓ , perform surgery in a less stressed manner


  • Surgical memory consolidation ↑

  • Time used during wound closing ↓

  • Surgical performance when listened to before + during surgery ↑

  • Spatial temporal reasoning + performance of a complicated task (i.e. surgery) ↑


Soft sounds (classical / meditation music) > silence

  • Mental stress level ↓

  • Need for painkillers / sedative drugs ↓

  • Prevents stress-induced ↑ in heart rate and systolic blood pressure

  • May be related to the gate control theory (there is a neurological “gate” that controls whether the pain signals pass onto the nervous system)


  • 63%: Music produced a sense of familiarity in a foreign environment for the patient

  • Anxiety and fear ↓

  • Better mindset to undergo surgery

  • 87%: Preferred playing music in the OT

  • Aware of the overall benefits of playing music

  • Volume of music in OT

  • 59%: medium volume

  • 41%: low volume

  • Unnecessary to worry about music affecting the surgical performance negatively

  • Music will not interfere with the technical aspects of patient care (shown by their choice of volume)


Researcher - Charlotte


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