The Grapevine

Music As A Sedative Alternative For Pre-Surgery Anxiety

Surgery is a daunting experience to people, whether the procedure is a simple root canal or a lifesaving chest operation with general anesthesia given to enter comatose. The anxiety is palpable no matter the reason someone has to go into surgery. To make this slightly less intimidating to the patient about to receive anesthesia, they are generally given anti-anxiety medication. This is done just a few minutes prior to being anesthetized.

Sometimes, music is an another option explored since some recent studies have pointed out that pills are slowly becoming ineffective to control preoperative anxiety. A recent clinical trial made the comparison between the two mentioned methods of reducing anxiety before and after general anesthesia is given intravenously.

 In a first of its kind study, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania randomly divided 157 participants into two groups. The first group took benzodiazepines, an anti-anxiety and sedative medication called midazolam, three minutes prior to the administration of anesthesia. 

Benzodiazepines are problematic since they have side effects, such as respiratory problems and depressive symptoms like anger, aggression and hostility. It needs constant monitoring of the vital signs by medical personnel. This is why researchers took it upon themselves to study alternatives. 

Accordingly, music considered an inexpensive, harmless and non-pharmacologic intervention, was tested out as another pre-surgery option for the second group. They were made to wear noise-canceling headphones and listen to British Band Macroni Union’s song purposefully engineered to lower anxiety, similarly, three minutes in advance. This is because that’s the time frame required for the impact of the drug or music to be felt. Another reason being that the two options have to be compared to the same level of effectiveness. 

The song ''Weightless'' was developed by the band intentionally with sound therapists to help people reduce anxiety and is considered the most calming song on the planet. Research says a song with 60 beats per second with uniform rhythm and devoid of lyrics works most effectively to counter anxiety in this circumstance. Soon after all this preparation, both groups were given peripheral nerve blocking anesthetics that made a part of their body go numb. 

Outcome of the Study

The State Trait Anxiety Inventory-6 (STAI-6), a popular scale to assess anxiety, was used to measure the levels, both ahead and after exposure to sedatives and the calming song. When the assessment was made on a score of 6 to 24, it was found that preoperative anxiety levels were the same in both groups. 

However, the level of satisfaction was lower in the group that listened to music that the researchers suspect being due to not making personal song choices. Communication is always a major barrier in surgeries in any case. Noise-canceling headphones additionally made it more difficult to communicate without a standardized volume for the headphones.

“Music medicine may be offered as an alternative to midazolam administration prior to peripheral regional anesthesia. However, further studies are warranted to evaluate whether or not the type of music, as well as how it is delivered, offers advantages over midazolam that outweigh the increase in communication barriers,” the short conclusion of the study read. 

Surgery Operating Room A new study examines the effect of music versus midazolam to treat preoperative anxiety. Pixabay

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