The Grapevine

Music Played During Surgery May Make It Harder For Surgeons To Effectively Communicate

Doctor of music
Though many surgeons like having music play in the background during surgery, it could make it harder for them to hear one another. Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

A little Chopin during your cosmetic surgery may sound classy but it could make it harder for your surgeons to concentrate, a new study in the Journal of Advanced Nursing suggests.

The authors observed how well the medical staffs of 20 different surgical procedures communicated with each other, both when music was being played in the operating room and when it wasn't.

They found that the added noise, pleasant as it may have been, led to harder hearing, with requests for surgical instruments made five times more often in the presence of music than without.

Far from being a calming influence, they further noticed a pattern of annoyance during the musical surgeries because of staff mishearing one another. With flesh and blood people laying on top of the operating table, though, it's not just the bruised egos of doctors and nurses that are at stake.

"Our study shows that playing music in the operating theatre can run counter to effective communication and highlights the need to consider both positive and negative effects of music on staff and patients," said lead study author Dr. Sharon Weldon in a statement .

Though music is commonly played during surgery, as much as 70 percent of the time, according to various estimates, there's been an academic back-and-forth on what benefits it truly offers.

While many of its supporters anecdotally cite feeling more at ease and thus more effective with music playing in the background, it's a claim that's difficult to verify rigorously using human test subjects.

Randomly assigning sick people to being operated on while soft jazz plays in the background might provide us with the strongest evidence for or against music's influence on surgery, but it could also unethically place their lives in danger.

Still, scientists have tried to work around these limitations, either through observational studies such as this current research or through clever proxies.

This very July, researchers in Aesthetic Surgery Journal devised an experiment where they allowed surgeons to suture up the open wounds of pigs’ feet with or without music. They, unlike this study, found a noticeable improvement in performance during the former condition.

"Playing preferred music made plastic surgery residents faster in completing wound closure with a 10% improvement in senior residents,” the authors wrote. "Music also improved quality of repair as judged by blinded faculty. Our study showed that music improves efficiency of wound closure, which may translate to health care cost savings"

Overall, the brunt of the research does point in favor of musically-motivated surgery, but as this latest study shows, the question is far from answered.

Source: Weldon S, et al. Journal of Advanced Nursing. 2015

 

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