Home E-Weekly August 8, 2017

Bach, Beyoncé or Black Sabbath -- What's Playing in Your OR?

Published: August 7, 2017

AMPED UP The most popular song among surgeons is "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions.

For most surgeons, an operating room without music is like an electric guitar without an amplifier: It just doesn't sound the way it's supposed to. And what does a surgeon want to hear pumping through the speakers as he's preparing to make his first incision? Researchers say it's more likely to be Metallica than Mozart or Maroon 5.

Nearly all (90%) surgeons and surgical residents listen to music in the OR, according to new research from Spotify and Figure 1, a knowledge-sharing platform for health care. Rock is the most popular musical genre (49%) for surgeons while they're on the clock, followed by pop (48%), classical (43%), jazz (24%) and R&B (21%). The most popular song among surgeons is "Rock You Like a Hurricane" by the Scorpions, while other top tracks include the likes of "Sweet Child O' Mine" by Guns N' Roses, "Cocaine" by Eric Clapton and "Ace of Spades" by Motörhead.

Despite its intensity, rock music can have a calming influence in the OR, according to Alan I. Benvenisty, MD, a vascular surgeon with Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. "Listening to rock puts me in a comfortable place so my full attention is on my patients," he says. "I listen to bands from my youth, and the feeling of nostalgia brings me to a calm, focused place."

Most surgeons (89%) prefer listening to their own cultivated playlists over albums, with more than a third (31%) having more than 5 playlists on rotation. Some surgeons even "take requests." If the patient is awake during the procedure, for example, he or she has a say in the intraoperative soundtrack.

Regardless of how a surgeon gets his musical fix in the OR, safety always takes precedence over inspiration, according to the survey of approximately 700 medical professionals. Respondents said they turn down the music during critical junctures in the surgery and in the event of a complication.

Bill Donahue

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