Does a Surgeon's Music Choice Matter?


What kind of museic should your surgeon be listening to while you're on the operating table? Does it matter?

Music and medicine have been thought to be connected since the days of ancient Greece. The God of healing, Apollo, was frequently shown playing an instrument known as a lyre. Many doctors have joined bands and orchestras. Surgeons, in particular, have long been linked to music. Salon recently set out to look at the link between surgery and music (

One 2008 study tested whether a surgeon's musical ability was related to their skills at performing laparoscopic procedures, which use a special scope. Musicians who were not surgeons performed better at this task than surgeons who had no experience playing an instrument.

Of course, surgeons do not need to be musicians themselves for music to affect them in the O.R. Is operating with music on a good idea? Some say it's distracting. Others note that music can be used for relaxation during a tense surgical session.

Finding the answer to this question is tricky, since it would be ethically questionable to measure surgeons' performance with and without music as they operate on real people. Some studies have tried alternative methods to explore the link between music and surgery. Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, one 1994 study looked at surgeons' blood pressure and heart rate while they performed math exercises, both with music of their own choosing and with music the researchers selected. They concluded that surgeons performed better when listening to music they had chosen.

Other studies have looked at the affect of music on other members of the operating team. In the U.K., 63 percent of anesthesiologists studied said that they enjoyed music in the operating room. Others said that they found the music distracting and made communicating with other staff members difficult.

What about patients listening to music? Several studies have suggested that music helps to reduce anxiety both before and after surgery. Patients may even require less pain medication if listening to music.

Finally, for those interested in the relationship between music and surgery, listen to "A Chance to Cut Is a Chance to Cure," a 2001 album from Matmos of San Francisco. The duo used their equipment to record the sounds of surgery, creating sounds like "Lasik" and "California Rhinoplasty."


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