Classical Music and Surgery

From a study by Jorge G. Camara, Joseph M. Ruszkowski, and Sandra R. Worak :

Context: Music and surgery.

Objective: To determine the effect of live classical piano music on vital signs of patients undergoing ophthalmic surgery. Design: Retrospective case series. Setting and Patients: 203 patients who underwent various ophthalmologic procedures in a period during which a piano was present in the operating room of St. Francis Medical Center. [Note: St. Francis Medical Center has recently been renamed Hawaii Medical Center East.] Intervention: Demographic data, surgical procedures, and the vital signs of 203 patients who underwent ophthalmic procedures were obtained from patient records. Blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate measured in the preoperative holding area were compared with the same parameters taken in the operating room, with and without exposure to live piano music. A paired t-test was used for statistical analysis. Main outcome measure: Mean arterial pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate.

Results: 115 patients who were exposed to live piano music showed a statistically significant decrease in mean arterial blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate in the operating room compared with their vital signs measured in the preoperative holding area (P < .0001). The control group of 88 patients not exposed to live piano music showed a statistically significant increase in mean arterial blood pressure (P < .0002) and heart rate and respiratory rate (P < .0001).

Conclusion: Live classical piano music lowered the blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate in patients undergoing ophthalmic surgery [emphasis added].

While it may be impractical at the moment to have a live pianist in each operating room, there are significant implications from this study. Here’s the pieces the surgeon in the study played:

Piano Piece Composer
Arabesque No. 1 in E Major Claude Debussy
Etude in E Major, Op. 10 No. 3 Frederic Chopin
La Playera (Andaluza), Danza Espanola No. 5 Enrique Granados
Milonga del Angel Astor Piazzolla
Sonata No. 14 in C# Minor “Moonlight”, Op. 27 no. 2, Adagio Sostenuto Ludwig van Beethoven
Nocturne in Eb, Op. 9 No. 2 Frederic Chopin

[links will open videos at YouTube]

two ancient Egyptian men; the one on the left is performing eye surgery with a long thin rod on the man on the right, other equipment is visible

Papyrus Depicting Ophthalmic Treatment, Reconstruction of Mural Painting from Tomb of Ipi

The full study is even more intriguing. If you’re planning surgery, I urge to you discuss the full study with your doctor, and follow up on the references cited at the end of the study (I will be doing this in the coming weeks).

And, on a personal note, good luck, Cecilia. You’ll be in my prayers.

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