Cochrane Summaries

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Can music interventions replace sedatives for reduction of preoperative anxiety?

Bradt J, Dileo C, Shim M
Published Online: 
6 June 2013

People awaiting surgical procedures often experience high levels of anxiety. Such anxiety may result in negative bodily responses, such as increased blood pressure and heart rate, leading to slower wound healing and increased risk of infection. High anxiety may also affect the start of anaesthesia and slow down postoperative recovery. To reduce patient anxiety, sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs are regularly administered before surgery. However, these often have negative side effects, such as causing drowsiness and breathing difficulties, and may interact with anaesthetic drugs to prolong patient recovery and discharge. Therefore, increasing attention is being paid to music therapy and music medicine interventions, amongst other non-pharmacological interventions, for reduction of preoperative anxiety. Interventions are categorized as 'music medicine' when passive listening to pre-recorded music is offered by medical personnel. In contrast, music therapy requires the implementation of a music intervention by a trained music therapist, the presence of a therapeutic process, and the use of personally tailored music experiences. A systematic review was needed to gauge the efficacy of both music therapy and music medicine interventions for reduction of preoperative anxiety.

The review included 26 trials with a total of 2051 participants. The findings suggested that music listening may have a beneficial effect on preoperative anxiety. Most trials presented some methodological weakness. Therefore, these results need to be interpreted with caution. However, these findings are consistent with the findings of three other Cochrane systematic reviews on the use of music interventions for anxiety reduction in medical patients. Therefore, we conclude that music interventions may provide a viable alternative to sedatives and anti-anxiety drugs for reducing preoperative anxiety.

This record should be cited as: 
Bradt J, Dileo C, Shim M. Music interventions for preoperative anxiety. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2013, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD006908. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006908.pub2
Assessed as up to date: 
2 August 2012