MONDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Music can help soothe the
fear and anxiety of critically ill patients who have been placed on
ventilators, reducing both their stress and their need for
sedatives, according to a new study.
Intensive care unit (ICU) patients allowed to listen to music of
their choice whenever they liked enjoyed a 36 percent reduction in
their anxiety levels compared to patients not offered music,
The ICU patients who were provided music also needed less
sedation, with their sedative intake dropping 38 percent compared
to other patients, the findings showed.
"They had significantly less anxiety, and they also received
less frequent and less intense sedatives and medication," said lead
author Linda Chlan, of Ohio State University. "We can use music to
reduce the common symptom of anxiety along with less medicine to
promote patient comfort."
The study, published online May 20 in the
Journal of the American Medical Association, involved 373
patients from 12 ICUs at five hospitals in the Minneapolis-St. Paul
area. All patients had been placed on a ventilator between
September 2006 and March 2011 due to respiratory failure.
A group of 126 patients were offered the opportunity to listen
to music of their own choice through headphones whenever they
"The music patients listened to was tailored to them based on
their musical preferences determined by the music therapist on our
research team," Chlan said. "The interesting thing about that, we
all have different preferences. Really, it ran the gamut. So much
of it has to do with age, whether or not someone's a musician, that
type of thing." Oldies and classical music were two favorite
The study also involved two control groups who were either
provided usual care or given the choice to wear noise-canceling
headphones whenever they wanted to block out hospital noise. All
three patient groups had their anxiety levels measured daily as
well as the intensity and frequency of the sedation they
During the five-day study period, patients allowed to listen to
music needed less sedation and felt less anxiety than patients
receiving usual care. They also needed fewer doses of sedatives
than patients wearing noise-cancelling headphones, but did not
experience a comparatively significant reduction in anxiety or
Patients with music listened for an average of 80 minutes a day,
while patients with noise-canceling headphones used them an average
of 34 minutes a day, the study authors noted.
Music therapist Barbara Else, a senior advisor to the American
Music Therapy Association, called the new report "an important
study for the music therapy profession."
"While this topic is not new in the music therapy research
literature, this study demonstrates one of the valuable roles
board-certified music therapists can provide within the context of
the interdisciplinary team, working with patients and in
cooperation with critical care nursing staff," said Else, who was
not involved with the research.
She said it "was also valuable because the protocol designed by
... Chlan and colleagues provided the patient with some control.
Patients could control when and how long they used the music
intervention each day or night. The music selections were tailored
by the music therapist, working with the patient."
Chlan said she got the idea of self-administered music therapy
from observing the practice of patient-controlled analgesia in
hospital settings. ICU patients on ventilators aren't allowed to
control their intake of pain medication, but she thought providing
them the choice of their own music might provide them some small
sense of control.
"Patients are more satisfied with pain control when they can
administer their own medicine," Chlan said. "I thought, 'Well, I
wonder, if we can encourage and empower patients to use preferred
relaxing music, can we help reduce their anxiety level?' It really
is unusual to empower patients in the ICU, and this study is novel
in that the patients decided for themselves when they wanted to
listen to music."
It was vital to allow patients to choose their own music. "We
all have musical memories, and those types of music we have
pleasant memories from we need to maximize," Chlan said.
Music also has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones in
the body, and can block out the disconcerting background noises
that occur in a hospital setting, she said.
"Music provides a very complex auditory stimulus," Chlan said.
"It can occupy areas of the brain with a pleasant comforting
stimulus, which can block out unpleasant hospital stimulus. People
think, 'Oh, music is just something nice to listen to,' but it's so
much more than that."
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