Archive October 2019 XX, No. 10

Ideas That Work: Sounds of Sedation

Help Patients Tune In to Tune Out

Penn Medicine
EASY LISTENING Handing out disposable earphones in pre-op lets patients access favorite playlists on personal devices.

My recent study showed that music can be just as effective as midazolam in calming patients' nerves before they receive peripheral nerve blocks ( Based on those findings, patients who arrive at our health system's outpatient surgery center receive disposable earphones (they cost about $2 a piece) so they can listen to personal playlists on their cellphones or tablets as they wait for surgery or have nerve blocks placed. Music lightens the emotional and pleasure centers in the brain, and sends positive projections to the hypothalamus, which slows the heart rate, lowers blood pressure and steadies breathing. This explains why some songs relax us or make us remember a time or event that makes us feel less anxious. Letting patients listen to their favorite music in pre-op is an effective alternative to sedatives for helping them remain calm during what's often a nerve-wracking time in their care.

Veena Graff, MD, MS
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
Philadelphia, Pa.

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