Music is beneficial to surgery patients, study finds

Music can reduce pain and anxiety during the surgical process, ‘the Lancet’ reports

Listening to music before, during or after a surgical procedure is beneficial to patients and can significantly reduce pain and anxiety, according to new research.

Studies among 7,000 surgical patients from 72 trials, published in medical journal The Lancet, found patients were significantly less anxious after surgery having listened to music.

The effects extend even while the patient is under general anaesthetic and therefore asleep.

‘Simple and cheap’

Researcher Dr

Paul Glasziou


Bond University



described music as a “simple and cheap intervention” and cheaper than any drug.

“A drug with similar effects might generate substantial marketing. The very high heterogeneity of effects among trials in the accompanying study highlights a research opportunity – to identify how to maximise the effect.”

The effects may have been psychosomatic too, as patients needed less pain medication and reported less pain compared with controls.

When patients selected their own music, there was a slightly greater reduction in pain and use of pain relief, the study found.

Lead author Dr Catherine Meads from Brunel University suggested that patients should be allowed to choose the type of music they would like to hear to maximise the benefit to their wellbeing.

Useful study

Irish surgeon Prof

Sean Tierney

, dean of professional development at the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (RCSI) and consultant vascular surgeon in

Tallaght Hospital

, said the study was useful but the effects may be somewhat exaggerated.

“Those things help a little, but I’m not sure how much. At the end of the day, morphine is still more important than the music when you are having major surgery,” he said.