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Music Is as Good as Sedative in Calming Nerves Before Surgery

Study finds listening to the "most relaxing song on Earth" before getting a nerve block reduces anxiety as well as Versed.

Published: August 7, 2019

CALMING CALMING Listening to music minutes before receiving a nerve block was just as effective in reducing pre-operative anxiety in patients as midazolam, according to a study.

Music is a viable alternative to IV sedation in reducing anxiety before receiving a nerve block, according to the findings of a Penn Medicine study published in the Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine journal earlier this month.

The Philadelphia, Pa., research team randomly assigned 157 adults to get one of 2 options 3 minutes before receiving a peripheral nerve block: an injection of 1 to 2 mgs of midazolam or a pair of noise-canceling headphones playing Marconi Union's "Weightless," which has been dubbed the "most relaxing song on Earth." The researchers found that the changes in anxiety levels of patients before and after the use of each method was similar.

"Our findings show that there are drug-free alternatives to help calm a patient before certain procedures, like nerve blocks," says Veena Graff, MD, the study's lead author and an assistant professor of anesthesiology and critical care. "We've rolled out a new process at our ambulatory surgical center to provide patients who want to listen to music with access to disposable headphones. Ultimately, our goal is to offer music as an alternative to help patients relax during their perioperative period."

Previous studies that have shown music's calming effect on patients before surgery have compared music to oral sedatives, which aren't often used in pre-operative settings. The Penn Medicine study was the first to compare music with an IV form of sedative medication.

While the study found music to be as effective as midazolam in that regard, the study also found that the group of patients who were administered the sedative had higher levels of satisfaction with their overall experience and fewer issues with communication. Researchers attributed these findings to factors including the use of noise-canceling headphones, non-standardized volume of music and not letting the patients select the music they listened to before the blocks were administered.

Adam Taylor

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