May 24, 2013

Listening to music in the ICU reduces the need for sedatives

Daily Briefing

    A new study in JAMA suggests that letting critically ill patients listen to their favorite music could reduce their stress levels and their pain sedative intake by more than one-third.

    For the study, Ohio State University researchers studied 373 patients on ventilators at 12 ICUs in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Researchers allowed 126 of the patients to listen to music of their choice through headphones. The remaining patients were either offered no headphones or noise-canceling headphones.

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    Over the course of five days, patients with the music option listened to their favorite tunes for an average of 80 minutes a day, while patients with noise-cancelling headphones used them an average of 34 minutes a day. Compared to the control group, the group with noise-cancelling headphones did not experience significantly less stress.

    However, listening to music reduced patients' anxiety levels by 36%. Moreover, those patients required 38% less sedation to dull their pain, the study says.

    "We can use music to reduce the common symptom of anxiety along with less medicine to promote patient comfort," lead author Linda Chlan told HealthDay. She noted that "music can occupy areas of the brain with a pleasant comforting stimulus, which can block out unpleasant hospital stimulus."

    Chlan got the idea for the study when observing the use of patient-controlled analgesia in hospital settings. "Patients are more satisfied with pain control when they can administer their own medicine," Chlan said. She theorized that allowing patients their choice of music might have given them a better sense of control.

    The patients' music choices "ran the gamut," Chlan says, but oldies and classical music proved most popular overall (Thompson, HealthDay, 5/20).

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