- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 26, 2005

Scalpel, retractor and more Hendrix, please.

As in Jimi Hendrix — and maybe a little Glenn Miller, Darryl Worley or Frank Sinatra. It’s all “musical intervention,” according to the Yale University School of Medicine.

The school announced the results of a study yesterday that proves familiar tunes, rather than the clatter of the operating room or so-called soothing “white noise,” actually lessen the sedation a patient needs during surgery.

The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Medically speaking, the results are called “sedative-sparing effects of intraoperative music,” according to Dr. Zeev Kain, an anesthesiologist and the study’s lead investigator.

A third of the 90 patients in the study were called the night before their surgeries and asked to bring their favorite compact disc to the hospital with them. The other patients went without music.

A third of those without music listened to “white noise delivered by a Sound Spa Acoustic Relaxation Machine from Homedics,” the team noted in its study. The rest simply heard “ambient OR noise,” which can be noisy indeed: A dropped surgical instrument can produce a noise level of 80 decibels — considered uncomfortable.

The anesthesia requirements for patients who listened to music “remained significantly less than the two other groups,” said Dr. Kain, who recommends music “be used to supplement sedation in the operating room.”

Many doctors are already hip to such things.

The American Medical Association surveyed surgeons at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Manhattan’s Beth Israel Medical Center and other sites, and discovered many doctors regularly operated to the strains of the Goo Goo Dolls, Neil Young, the Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Buffett, Beethoven, show tunes, jazz standards and a host of famous and not-so-famous music makers.

In fact, the association includes a list of “artists who play the OR” on its Web site, advising physicians that “it’s got a good beat, it’s easy to operate to.”

These days, some doctors even mix their own CDs of surgery music; the Animas Surgical Center in Colorado, for example, maintains a 100-CD library compiled by a staff surgeon. Milwaukee’s St. Francis Hospital has an equal amount.

There are, however, occasional disagreements about what gets played in the OR. Safety, however, has the final word.

“This could be heresy in the surgeon’s lounge, but I don’t think surgeons are the sole determinant of whether music should be played,” New York surgeon Dr. Eric Lazar said in a Columbia University interview last year.

“If my scrub nurse can’t hear, or the anesthesia resident can’t concentrate, then the music should be turned off,” he said. “It’s more important that the whole team functions well in the established environment.”

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